THE LIBRARY OF THE
AT CHAPEL HILL
THE COLLECTION OF
H.G. Jones North Caroling
A Christian Witness
First Presbyterian Church Gastonia, North Carolina
History of the First
Gastonia, North Carolina
by Marion A. Ellis
© 2005 First Presbyterian Church, Gastonia, North Carolina
All rights reserved.
Design and production by Julie Allred, BW&A Books, Inc., Durham, N.C.
Printed in the United States of America by Worzalla.
Photography by David Pegram.
Financial support provided by the Presbyterian Endowment Trust, 2002—2005,
and by Session, 2002-2005.
Secretarial support by Elizabeth T. Stewart.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2005929836
Front endsheet: cradle roll, 2004
First row, left to right: John Albert Rhyne, Laura Craig Smith, Nancy White
Hunter, Helen Rhyne Marvin, William Stuart Roberts, Douglas Robinson
Henry, Lillian Johnstone Howland, Anne King Carpenter, Rebecca Falls,
Robert Edgar McLean Jr., Gene M. Minges, Rachel Minges Rockett
Second row, left to right: John Craig Mason III, Mary Sue Carpenter Mason,
Jean Marie Torrence, Sarah Adams Abernethy, Wilson Marshall LaFar, Kay
Grigg Brown, Mary Lewis Craig Bryant, Ann Whisnant Roberts, Ruth Irene
Cherry, Margaret Dunn Upchurch, A. Wilson Dunn Jr., Alice Ragan Wood,
William Edward Leeper Jr., Helen Ragan Mando, Martha Barnett Beal,
Virginia Huffstetler Zeigler, Martha Louise Kendrick
Third row, left to right: Charlton Kennedy Torrence Jr., Daniel C. Ragan Jr.,
Walter Watt Dickson, R. Bruce Melvin, George Robert Currence, Esther
Adams Hunnicutt, Martha Rhyne Wilson, William Danford Wilson,
Dorothy Wilson McKenzie
Fourth row, left to right: Ralph A. Dickson Jr., Thomas A. Stewart, Robert L.
Adams Jr., Tom David Efird, J. Ben Morrow, John Will Parks III, Roger
Arnold Stowe, J. Ralph Kendrick Jr., Frank McKinley Roberts, Rufus Man-
fred Johnston III, William David Lawson III
Not Pictured: Minor Revere Adams III, John Edgar Brison Jr., Frances Moore
Cruse, Elizabeth Glenn Davis, Jean Kluttz Faires, Joseph Chalmer Gettys,
Charles Armstrong Home, Henry Graydon Home Jr., Edward Earl Jackson,
Mildred Wilson Jackson, Margaret Kempton Kelly, Paul Phifer Kincaid Jr.,
W Duke Kimbrell, Daniel Senn LaFar Jr., Rose Wilson Lawing, B. Frank
Matthews, Fred Morris Moss Jr., Kay Kincaid Moss, Robert Turner Moss,
James Robert Rankin Jr., Ralph Smyre Robinson Jr., Ann Reid Wyatt
Back endsheet: Sanctuary, 2005
>• — ' z— KJ ^> '
This book is dedicated to the glory of God
and to the Christian witnesses, named and
unnamed, who surely knew the wisdom
of the Scripture:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
Digitized by the Internet Archive
Purpose of First Presbyterian Church 2004
It is the purpose of First Presbyterian
Church to "present everyone mature in
Christ" (Colossians 1:28), because God
has called us into a relationship with Him
and with each other through His Son,
Some of the principles articulated by John Calvin remain at the core of
Presbyterian beliefs. Among these are the sovereignty of God, the author-
ity of the scripture, justification by grace through faith, and the priest-
hood of all believers. What they mean is that God is the supreme authority
throughout the universe. Our knowledge of God and God's purpose for
humanity comes from the Bible, particularly what is revealed in the New
Testament through the life of Jesus Christ. Our salvation (justification)
through Jesus is God's generous gift to us and not the result of our own
accomplishments. It is everyone's job — ministers and laypeople alike — to
share this Good News with the whole world. That is why the Presbyte-
rian Church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy and laity,
men and women.
Presbyterians confess their beliefs through statements that have been
adopted over the years and are contained in the Book of Confessions. These
statements reflect our understanding of God and what God expects of us
at different times in history, but all are faithful to the fundamental beliefs
described above. Even though we share these common beliefs, Presbyte-
rians understand that God alone is lord of the conscience, and it is up to
each individual to understand what these principles mean in his or her
The Presbyterian Church's denominational structure can be envisioned
as a pyramid composed of groups of ministers and elders. The base of
the pyramid consists of the Session, a body of ministers and ruling elders
elected by the congregation. Sessions in turn elect commissioners to the
Presbytery, and Presbyteries elect commissioners to the Synod and the
General Assembly, which both consist of an equal number of ministers
The Beginning I
Early pioneer years. Long Avenue church. 188$ Cornerstone.
Founding Fathers 17
Marietta Street church. Early leaders. The Reverend R. P.
Smith, pastor, i8pj—i8p6. West Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Years of Grace 23
Dr. J. H. Henderlite, pastor, 1912—1940. Beloved senior
minister, revered church and community leader. Visit to
the Holy Land. Declining health and resignation.
A Ministry for the War Years 39
Dr. L. M. Ellis, pastor, 1940— ip$o. "Miss Bess" Jackson,
secretary. Local missions. Foreign missions.
An Adventure in Faith 49
Dr. Harry Moffett, pastor, ip$2-ip6y. Decision to relocate.
The adventure in faith. Garrison Boulevard church.
A Peace That Passes All Understanding 73
Dr. Moffett's Congo mission trip. Social unrest. Human
Broadening the Vision 87
Dr. James G. Stuart, pastor, ip68—ip8y. Goal setting.
Covenant Village. Presbyterian Endowment Trust (PET).
The Glenn Foundation. Drama.
Women of the Church 107
Early organizations. World Mission Ministry. Crisis
Assistance Ministry. Female elders and deacons. Church
cookbooks, ip8i, ipps.
nine A Good Shepherd 121
Dr. John DeBevoise, pastor, 1990— 1995. Community
involvement. Ragan Spiritual Enrichment Fund. Faith
and Fiction book discussion. Kirkin ' of the Tartans.
Presbyterian Trotters. Stephen Ministry.
ten The Church Today 137
Dr. David Stoker, pastor, 1997- present. Vision 2000.
Joy in the Morning service.
eleven Scouting 149
Boy Scouts of America. Girl Scouts of America.
twelve Christian Education and Ministries
of the Church 155
Presbyterian Weekday School. Children 's ministry.
Youth ministry. Interfaith Hospitality Network.
thirteen Worship and Music 167
The organ. The carillon and the renovation. The handbells.
The choirs. Music, worship, and the Arts Series.
fourteen Looking Forward 183
epilogue Message from the Pastor, The Reverend Mr. I. M.
Ellis, 1948 187
appendix Historical Timeline 193
Members of First Presbyterian Who Have
Become Ministers 204
Presbyterian Church Members Who Have
Received the Silver Beaver Award of the Boy
Scouts of America 204
Clerks of the Session 205
Associate Ministers of First Presbyterian
Directors of Religious/Christian Education 207
Directors of Music 208
Presidents of the Presbyterian Women's
Honorary Life Memberships 211
First Presbyterian Church War Veterans 215
In Memoriam 219
First Presbyterian Church Marketing
Session Roster 2005 220
Deacon Roster 2005 220
Eight pages of color plates fall between
pages 166 and 16 j.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud
First Presbyterian Church has such abundance: spirit, congregation, staff,
resources, plant. Yet it has no record of the journey that has provided this
bounty. Two endearing journals of her past have been written, History of
First Presbyterian Church, by Hugh Query (1948), and The Presbyterian
Church, a History, by Charles Daniel (1961). Neither is complete, and at
some inspections both contain inaccuracies, as most historical publica-
tions do. They, however, remain treasured pieces of our story, for they
both capture the sense of God's work in His people since the earliest days
of First Church.
In the fall of 2001, the present administration acknowledged the need
for an updated, accurate historical record. A committee was named and
directed by Session to pursue publishing a complete history of this
church. The committee considered in-house efforts but soon realized that
125 years of marvelous Christian ministry deserved the recording talents
of a professional author. Interviews followed. Funded by the Presbyterian
Endowment Trust, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Marion Arthur
Ellis, was asked to author an historical account of the First Presbyterian
Church Christian community.
It is fall 2005. Mr. Ellis has written seven drafts and spent two and a
half years in research. He has lived among us; he has talked to us. He has
interviewed all past living ministers and many members of past adminis-
trations. He stood with us when the mysterious metal box containing ma-
terial from 1895 was rediscovered after forty-one years. He has amassed a
room brimming with yellowed pages that speak our story. He has divined
our past. He has observed our present, and now he has satisfied, with ex-
cellence, the charge of the Committee of History and Archives to publish
a history of First Presbyterian Church, Gastonia, 1882-2005.
A wonderful exponent of this book is the establishment of a room of
history and archives, named the Heritage Room. It also has been funded
by the Presbyterian Endowment Trust, approved by Session, and executed
by the Committee of History and Archives, a subcommittee of the Build-
ing and Grounds Committee. The Heritage Room opened officially on
November 7, 2004, Kirkin' Sunday. It is the responsibility of an appointed
committee, acting under the authority of Session, to maintain it. Only
this dutifulness can guard the past, record the present, and insure this in-
formation for the future.
The Session has accepted A Christian Witness, History of First Presby-
terian Church, and the Committee of History and Archives presents it to
you, the congregation, and to all others who have interest in knowing the
story of our pilgrimage from a worshipping community of twenty-two to
a congregation of 1,315.
The committee never intended for this publication to be the end of our
journey, but instead the committee wished it to be the inspiration for a
longer, richer trip in Christian witness for First Presbyterian.
With respect for Marion Ellis, with affection for the staff and Session
who supported this effort, and with appreciation to all who have gra-
ciously contributed material and time to this project, the committee rec-
ommends A Christian Witness. Read, enjoy, reflect. Especially, give thanks
to the Lord of all that has been and all that is to come!
Ruth McLean Brenner
COMMITTEE OF HISTORY AND ARCHIVES
Martha Barnett Beal B. Frank Matthews II
Ruth Mclean Brenner, chair Mary Ann Thomas Patrick
Walter Watt Dickson Elizabeth Triplett Stewart
A. Wilson Dunn Jr. Charlton Kennedy Torrence Jr.
Katherine McChesney Mackie
The far-sighted leaders who founded the First Presbyterian Church of Gas-
tonia in 1882 were among the most prominent citizens of the community.
Over the years the church members have continued to contribute in busi-
ness, politics, medicine, education, and music as well as in civic, social,
and cultural affairs. This book is only a condensation of the life and times
of the church in the past 123 years.
Throughout the years, First Presbyterian ministers and members have
taken leadership roles in shaping the community, even during tough times,
such as the civil rights era of the 1960s. Since its founding, this church has
produced mayors, legislators, and other holders of public office, and the
tradition continues today. It goes without saying that First Presbyterian's
membership has always included many of the community's outstanding
business and industrial leaders.
Although the church has never lost its focus on Christian education
through innovative Sunday schools and other church programs, it has led
the way in several other areas, including various goal-setting initiatives.
From its beginning, the church's outstanding music program has de-
manded excellence and earned national recognition. The church has led
the way with its educational program for preschool children. It has spon-
sored programs in drama and art. It has fostered civic and social programs
to assist the needy, the disadvantaged, and the helpless toward a better
life. Its Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs have produced hundreds of
outstanding men and women. Today's youth ministry has become one of
the most active in the Gastonia area. In missionary work, the church has
helped form several new local churches and chapels and historically has
contributed to missions in foreign countries.
By choosing a bold new architectural home in the early 1960s, the
church made a statement about vision into the future. It sent its senior
minister to the Congo in a time of strife to aid in restructuring the na-
tional church there.
The church did not rest on its laurels. It led the way in electing women
to key positions. Many First Church members may not realize that
through 2003 the church's Presbyterian Endowment Trust (PET), founded
in 1977, had distributed more than $2.6 million to various worthy causes.
And, of course, the community benefits every day from its association
with one of the finest retirement centers in the region, Covenant Village,
which had its beginnings at First Presbyterian Church.
This book attempts to give the reader an idea not only of what has
been done throughout the church's long and storied history, but also why
and how it was accomplished. To accomplish this task I have read all the
Session and Diaconate minutes, correspondence in the church files, and
all the published newsletters I could find. I interviewed more than fifty
current or former ministers, lay leaders, and others. In addition, I have
read everything I could find on the history of the church and consulted
numerous publications that commented on the role of the church or its
members in the community.
This is the third church history I have written. Those of Charlotte's
Myers Park Baptist Church and Christ Episcopal Church were built
around powerful senior ministers. But when I looked back on those two
histories, published in 1995 and 1997, I realized that I had not detailed the
ways the lay leadership had really shaped those two great churches. So
when I agreed to write the history of First Presbyterian Church of Gas-
tonia, I decided I would focus much more on the lay leaders. Little did I
realize that I had chosen a nearly perfect example of a lay leader— driven
church, one steered by laity who chose outstanding ministers and built an
outstanding church. Most of the names of these legendary leaders are so
familiar there is no need to list them here. As an outside observer, I re-
mind the church that it has a rich connection and strong legacy to help it
through many more productive years.
This book is more than a product of my thought and work. The con-
scientious effort — and I do mean effort — of the members of the Com-
mittee of History and Archives has enriched this book beyond my expec-
tations. The committee members more than matched my research and
writing with their considerable personal knowledge and experience. They
quickly learned to go beyond off-the-cuff observations; they took on as-
signments to research specific areas and returned with complete reports.
No detail was left unchallenged, and many sections were rewritten several
times to meet the standards of accuracy and readability.
This partnership of the professional writer with no personal relevant
background in this church and the committee members as collaborating
researchers, editors with heart, soul, and plenty of personal experience, has
made this a much better book. It is unusual among church histories, and
it sets a high standard for others to follow.
In the beginning stages of all my books I ask for participation by key
individuals connected with the institution, but usually I receive only to-
ken contributions, leaving the bulk of the work to me, as the author. But
in this church, the committee took my request to heart and dug in with
gusto. As we went through draft after draft, I could feel the committee
members' ownership of this history intensify. So this is truly a collabora-
tive effort and another superlative that reflects the true nature of the First
Presbyterian Church of Gastonia.
Marion A. Ellis
Charlotte, North Carolina
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. . . . and without him was not anything
made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light
The first thirteen years of First Presbyterian Church of Gastonia's his-
tory slowly unfolded as documents were pulled from a small black
box on a large table in the church library. Wearing white cotton gloves to
protect fragile documents, members of a waiting group were eager to get
their hands on the documents that were yellow with age and had not been
seen for forty years.
One of the first things the members of the group saw on one of the
pages from so long ago was a handwritten note from the Reverend R. P.
Smith, the pastor who had supervised placing the capsule: "I wonder if
these pages will ever be read again; and if so, by whom? Deposited in the
Corner Stone of the Presbyterian Church, July 19th, 1895."
On this August day in the year 2002, the answer to the question by
the Reverend Smith, long passed, was being answered in the twenty-first
century. The witnesses were members of the Committee of History and
Archives and other representatives of the church — David Stoker, senior
minister; Pat Morrow, church administrator; Barbara Voorhees, clerk of
The 1895 corner-
stone and time
Session; Tom Summer, chairman of the Building and Grounds Commit-
tee; David Pegram, church photographer; and Marion Ellis, author. They
had gathered to attend the unsealing of the black box of sheet metal that
had been sealed in the cornerstone of the church on Marietta Street in
downtown Gastonia in 1895. It was later placed under the tower of the
new church in 1962 on what became Garrison Boulevard, then a rural part
of the city.
One by one the collection of twenty-two items that Smith had placed
in the tiny vault, about the size of a loaf of bread, was passed among the
many hands. Among the first items the audience saw was a faded envelope
for Foreign Mission collection with the legend: "A Greatly Disobeyed
Command. 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every crea-
ture. That whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that
believeth not, shall be damned,' said Jesus Christ. Mark 16:15-16."
Also in the time capsule were copies of the church's 1895 newsletters
containing the names of all of the members. Other material included the
July 4, 1895, edition of the weekly Gastonia Gazette and the July 9, 1895,
edition of the daily Charlotte Observer, Presbyterian news sheets, church
pledge cards, U.S. postage stamps, minutes of the Mecklenburg Presby-
tery, and magazines and papers of various sorts, including a scrap of pa-
per listing the population of Gastonia at 2,313 persons as of June 1, 1895.
A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Frank Matthews examines a
pamphlet from the capsule.
Note the white gloves.
Examining the capsule's contents in the church library, 2002. Left to right: Tom Sum-
mer, Mary Ann Patrick, Trip Stewart, Kitty Mackie, Charlton Torrence Jr.
Contents of Time Capsule 1895
Minutes of Spring Meeting of Mecklenburg Presbytery
Manual of the Presbytery of Mecklenburg adopted at Hopewell Church
on April 24, 1890
Presbyterian Sabbath School Convention held at Olney Church on July 26,
27, and 28, 1894
Foreign mission form
Weekly offering form
History of First Presbyterian Church, organized July 16, 1882, with twenty-
two members, of which ten were in the congregation as the capsule was
Children's Friend newspaper
The Missionary, booklet, February 1895
Church record for May 1894, September 1894, March 1895, June 1895
The lesson quarterly for Sunday school and Bible classes
"Our Fatherless Ones," pamphlet from Barium Springs, June 26, 1895
North Carolina Presbyterian newspaper, Wilmington, North Carolina,
Thursday, July 4, 1895
"The Children's Missionary," pamphlet, July 1895
By then, Gaston County had grown to include six textile mills employing
more than one thousand workers.
This time capsule was rediscovered by accident in the summer of 2002
when workers were getting ready to renovate the carillon. A cornerstone
bearing the 1895 inscription was unrecognizable at first because it had
been covered with mortar. Tom Summer, chairman of the church's Build-
ing and Grounds Committee, knocked off the mortar revealing the cor-
nerstone and alerted the Building and Grounds Committee of his find.
One of the most valuable items was a two-page history of the found-
ing of the church. It was handwritten by Reverend Smith on Presbyterian
A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Christian Observer newspaper, Louisville, KY, June 19, 1895
Letter to Davidson College alumni, July 25, 1895
List of the population of Gastonia on June 1, 1895: 2,313 souls
Two-cent stamp for 1893
Daily Charlotte Observer newspaper, July 9, 1895
Gastonia Gazette, July 4, 1895
Letter from the Peck-Smead Company, February 9, 1895, offering to sell heat-
ing system to Rev. R. P. Smith for new church
Scraps of history for R. P. Smith's posterity:
Names of pastor's family
Apportionments for year April 1, 1894, to April 1, 1895
Pledge form to build new Presbyterian Church
Form to raise money for hiring a superintendent of home mission work
Thank-you letter for pledges
List of contributors to contents of box
Long Brothers guarantee for the metal time capsule
Tag — box made by Long Brothers
manse stationery and dated July 10, 1895. Smith, who was pastor from
1893 to 1896, noted that when the church was formed on July 16, 1882, it
had twenty-two members — sixteen from Olney Presbyterian Church, four
from Union Presbyterian Church, and two by profession of faith. The
charter members were R. H. Adams, Mrs. M. J. Adams, R. H. Bell, Annie
Bell, Margaret Bell, Sonora Bell, B. G. Bradley, William Bradley, Dorcas
Bradley, Eliza Bradley, J. H. Craig, Mary Craig, J. H. Fayssoux, Jemima
Fayssoux, J. Q. Holland, Julia Holland, R. L. Johnston, C. H. Martin,
Mrs. John Morrow, Elvira Smith, A. M. Smyre, and Sarah A. Smyre.
Familiar names were listed among the 219 members on the church roll
contained in the capsule. These included early Gaston founding families:
Adams, Alexander, Armstrong, Bradley, Costner, Craig, Dickson, Gal-
lant, Glenn, Gray, Holland, Hunter, Jackson, Johnston, Kennedy, Love,
McLean, Page, Pegram, Ragan, Ratchford, Rhyne, Shannon, Smith,
Smyre, Spencer, Thompson, Warren, Williamson, Wilson, and White.
Charlton Torrence and Martha Beal, committee members sifting through
the material on that day, saw the names of their grandparents, Mr. and
Mrs. Frost Torrence and Mr. G. W Ragan, with the date 1895. In addi-
tion, there were fourteen Bradleys, eleven Adamses, and ten Glenns.
B. G. Bradley was listed as clerk of the Session in the 1895 papers. El-
ders were J. Q. Holland, R. C. G. Love, J. R. Shannon, and Dr. C. E. Ad-
ams. Deacons were T. C. Pegram, chairman; John F. Love, R. T. Harper,
G. W Ragan, Dr. E. F. Glenn, F. A. Costner, T. W. Wilson, J. Lee Rob-
inson, J. E. Curry, and J. A. Hunter. Mrs. J. F. Love was president of the
Ladies Missionary Society; Mrs. T. C. Pegram, vice president; Miss Emily
Adams, secretary; and Mrs. A. M. Smyre, treasurer.
Although men served as the elders and deacons, women were active
and influential in the church. Nothing of any importance was done with-
out the unofficial approval of the women of the church, usually wielding
decisions through their husbands.
Reverend Smith and others included in the capsule material that gave
2002 readers a snapshot of what life must have been like in 1895 under
President Grover Cleveland. The lead item on the front page of the Gas-
tonia Gazette ($1.50 per annum, cash in advance) was a long, gossipy col-
umn that recounted conversation among local ladies on vacation at the
beach, including a story about the supposed origin of throwing rice at
weddings. (Legend had it that rice was spread so an evil bird would eat
it instead of attacking the bride.) Obviously, the lack of communication
technology forced a different kind of news to fill the area newspaper.
The newspaper noted such items as the price of cotton and the sched-
ule of the Chester and Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad. The paper con-
tained social notes of out-of-town visitors and folksy stories, including
what must have been among the first jokes about lawyers. Advertisements
for pain-relieving ointments, salves, and pills were commonplace.
A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
First four supply pastors, 1882-1891. Revs. W. B. Corbett,
J. J. Kennedy, L. R. McCormick, W. E. Mcllwaine.
The Reverend R. R Smith, who had collected and deposited the cap-
sule in 1895, became the second full-time pastor of the First Presbyterian
Church of Gastonia in August 1893. Reverend C. W. Robinson was the
church's first full-time pastor, serving from April 18, 1891, to November 15,
1892. Until then the church was supplied by ministers who split their time
with other churches in the area. These were called supply ministers and in-
cluded J. J. Kennedy (great-grandfather of C. K. Torrence Jr. and Jean Ma-
rie Torrence), L. R. McCormick, and W. E. Mcllwaine. Then the Reverend
THE BEGINNING J
Our first church (built in 1882) with Rev. R. P. Smith, 1893.
Mr. Robinson was named as the first full-time pastor. Mr. Robinson was
the uncle of Miss Elizabeth Robinson, who later became the bride of
J. H. Matthews. She and her husband became major figures in the growth
of First Presbyterian. Their children, Eugene, Elizabeth, Houston, and
Frank, have continued the tradition of Presbyterian service and labor.
The congregation had no building when the church was first organized.
The first supply preacher, the Reverend W. B. Corbett, who was also pas-
tor of Union and Olney Presbyterian churches, had been preaching from
the platform of the railroad station and in the nearby Falls House Hotel.
He held church meetings in an old storehouse, or the old Gastonia Acad-
emy, until a small brick church was built. It was built on Long Avenue at
a cost of $1,500 and a capacity to seat four hundred. This first church was
dedicated on June 9, 1883.
The heirs of Joseph Bradley had presented to the congregation the lot
for this new church, with a small additional lot purchased from J. R. Falls
for $50. All of the $1,500, except $100 from Mecklenburg Presbytery and
$35 from friends in Charlotte, was promptly paid by the church's small
Although today we refer to the Long Street Church, there was no Long
Avenue at that time. The church sat back from the road, now Airline
Avenue, then part of the road to Dallas. There was an avenue of elm trees
leading from the road straight to the church, wide enough to accommo-
date pedestrians, carriages, and buggies. The area behind the church was
used for hitching horses and mules that pulled the buggies. The bell used
then was still in use in 1948 in the Third Street Presbyterian Church in
Miss Stella Holland, daughter of Captain and Mrs. J. Q. Holland, was
organist at the time of her marriage to S. N. Boyce. The marriage was
timed so they might hurry from the church to the Southern depot, a few
hundred yards away, to catch a southbound train. The train was an hour
late, and an impromptu reception was held at the Falls House.
This church was in a thriving community of other churches and prom-
inent homes located in a neighborhood adjoining busy Airline Avenue.
In the years when First Church was served by supply preachers, Gas-
tonia was an infant town. With a population of fewer than three hun-
THE BEGINNING 9
dred, it had little industry, but that was soon to change. The Chester and
Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad ran north and south. It intersected the
Atlanta and Charlotte Airline Railroad, which ran east and west. The At-
lanta and Charlotte Airline began stopping in Gastonia in 1873, establish-
ing Gastonia as a crossroad of transportation. This brought a huge indus-
trial opportunity to the city.
The presence of the railroads not only brought industry but, in 1909, also
made Gastonia the seat of county government. This was largely because
citizens of Dallas, the previous county seat, decided they did not want the
distractions of a railroad spoiling their pristine surroundings, a posture
that won aesthetic advantage but wrought economic deterioration.
Gaston County's textile industry was in its infancy. Most of the mills
were along the South Fork River or its tributaries east of the city. The
South Fork supplied the waterpower that drove the mills before the corn-
Manse of the church, corner of Marietta Street and Franklin Avenue, circa 1910.
IO A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
ing of electricity. When electric generators became available, industry
The Baptist and Methodist congregations already had church build-
ings in downtown Gastonia when First Presbyterian built its small church
on what was later Long Avenue. The Presbyterian laymen were among
the town's most successful and respected citizens. Charter member J. H.
Fayssoux, the Gastonia agent for the Chester and Lenoir Narrow Gauge
Railroad, was mayor of Gastonia in 1882. Elders R. L. Johnston and A. M.
Smyre were two of the town's six commissioners. Having strong com-
munity leaders as strong church leaders brought the church growth and
By the time the Reverend R. P. Smith arrived in 1893, lay leadership
had decided that it was time for First Presbyterian to build a new meet-
ing place. The church leaders planned a grand edifice, one that would seat
one thousand people, instead of four hundred. It would be built of red
brick, sandstone, and slate on South Marietta Street, in the heart of town,
with a tower more than no feet tall. Architect Charles Wilson of Roa-
noke, Virginia, was engaged to design the new building. With its accom-
panying manse, built in 1905, it would cost $19,884, all of which would be
raised by pledges alone. It would be a truly grand church structure.
The congregation had voted to pay for the construction without any
fund-raising fairs, suppers, or festivals while also keeping up all pledges
to the benevolent causes it had decided to support. Missions historically
never suffered because of operational needs of the church.
It was a hefty order in 1894, only a year after the Panic of 1893 had
sapped energy from the economy. It required strong lay leadership, which
included several prominent business owners, as well as determined and
dedicated clerical guidance. A committee of nine was named to study
whether a new church was needed and, if so, where it should be located.
Its members were A. C. Williamson, S. E. McArthur, T. C. Pegram, J. R.
Shannon, A. M. Smyre, E. N. Lineberger, J. F. Love, J. B. Beal, and G. W
As the study continued, the congregation found a very capable pastor
in the Reverend Robert Perry Smith. He was forty-two years old when
he assumed the Gastonia pastorate at a salary of $700 per year, which in-
THE BEGINNING II
eluded use of the manse. Smith was an educator as well as a preacher. A
native of Spartanburg County, South Carolina, he had been an outstand-
ing student at Davidson College, winning the top debating medal. Af-
ter graduating in 1873, he attended Columbia Theological Seminary in
Decatur, Georgia, where he received a degree in theology. He then be-
came president of Reidsville Female Seminary near Spartanburg, where
he stayed for ten years and married Ella Reid, the only daughter of the
founder of the Reidsville Seminary. In 1885, at age thirty-four, he became
the first president of Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina.
After three years in that post, he resigned to lead a church in Bullocks
Creek, South Carolina, and then one in Blackstock, South Carolina, be-
fore moving to Gastonia in 1893.
Educated and informed, Smith believed in living his role as a minister
in every way. At breakfast, he insisted upon quiet among his three chil-
dren and had each read a Bible verse before the family sang a hymn. He
took his job very seriously and soon captured the respect of his growing
congregation in Gastonia. When the idea of a new building was proposed,
it was Smith's suggestion that no benevolences should suffer while fund-
raising for the new building went forward. Another idea of his was to have
Sunday school children raise money for the new building by each buying
a brick. Today, the church Heritage Room has one of those bricks.
Smith discouraged talking or chewing gum while in worship because
he said it disturbed others. He abhorred drinking and gambling and
counseled young men against such vices. "He had no patience with lazi-
ness nor falsehoods," Smith's daughter wrote in Blended Blessings, a trib-
ute to Smith and his wife published in 1946, ten years after Smith's death.
But Smith's daughter reported that the Smiths also had a sense of humor
and enjoyed playing little tricks on each other. For instance, Smith once
got a laugh from his wife's frustration over continuing to receive in the
mail advertisements for cures of "fits."
According to his daughter's book, Smith was a true descendant of the
Scottish Presbyterians, since his clan name in Scotland had originally been
McGowan. Believing it was necessary to avoid possible religious persecu-
tion, even in America, one of his forebears had given the family name
Smith to immigration authorities upon his arrival.
12 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Second four pastors, 1893— 1911. Revs. C. W. Robinson,
R. P. Smith, M. McG. Shields, R. C. Anderson.
Smith stayed three years at First Church in Gastonia before moving
to Asheville, North Carolina, where he became superintendent of Home
Missions for the Asheville Presbytery and founder of the Mountain Or-
phanage in Balfour, North Carolina. Smith did get to fulfill a lifelong
dream by taking a trip to Rome before he died in 1936 at the age of eighty-
four. At the end of his illustrious life, his last words were, "Now it is time
to pray." As a measure of respect, authorities laid his body in state at the
First Presbyterian Church in Asheville.
After Smith left the First Presbyterian Church of Gastonia pastorate
in 1896, he was succeeded by the Reverend Malcolm McG. Shields, who
served until October 1904. A number of interim pastors followed. The
Reverend Robert Campbell Anderson was called in July 1905. Anderson,
who often rode his horse, Victor, through the unpaved streets and tied
him to the stone hitching post in front of the manse, served six years. He
resigned in September 1911 to become head of the Mountain Retreat As-
The "elite" of Gastonia circa 1895. Front row: J. H. Kennedy, J. Lee Robinson. Second
row: James Gallant, unknown, Chief of Police I. N. Alexander, George W. Ragan.
Back row: J. E. Curry, Judge William H. Lewis, Ed Wilson, unknown.
14 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
sociation of the Southern Presbyterian Assembly grounds at Montreat, a
post he held for thirty-six years. As a tribute, Montreat-Anderson College
bears his name.
By Anderson's resignation in 1911, First Church of Gastonia had grown
to 644 members with an annual budget of $8,242.78. Succeeding Ander-
son was a man who became one of First Church's most beloved senior
ministers, the Reverend Dr. James Henry Henderlite. He accepted the call
in December 1912. He was to stay for the next twenty-seven years.
Smith, Shields, Anderson, and all the other ministers and lay lead-
ers during the early days of First Church's existence in Gastonia took
their obligation as moral pacesetters for the church beyond the advice
and counsel stage. This responsibility meant that both lay leaders and the
minister often took it upon themselves to enforce standards of behavior
they felt should be upheld by church members.
Like many other churches of the times, the Gastonia church followed
the Book of Church Order requirement that all deliberations of Session
meetings be kept secret. (Now Session records are open.) The Session often
acted as judge and jury and cited congregants for violations that included
bootlegging, adultery, dancing, fighting, fornication, gambling, swearing,
and consistent absence from worship.
The elders appointed a committee of one or two to investigate com-
plaints of non-church behavior, and the committee would report to the
Session. On many occasions the Session would ask the accused party or
parties to appear before the Session to explain. Usually the accused con-
fessed and promised to reform; but if found guilty by the elders, the ac-
cused could be suspended or, in the most drastic cases, their names could
be read aloud from the pulpit. They would be "unchurched," or stricken
from the church roll.
These results could have serious consequences in a small town where a
man's or woman's reputation might determine whether he or she succeeded
in business or was ruined. The names of the accused are clearly spelled out
in those old minutes. No good purpose would be accomplished by expos-
ing them publicly, even at this late date. However, some examples might
help today's church members reflect on those harsh, bygone days. From the
1885 Session minutes: "[Two members] made acknowledgments to the Ses-
THE BEGINNING 15
sion that they had done wrong in dancing and promised to use all endeav-
ors to not give way to the temptation again." From the 1888 Session min-
utes: "A. M. Smyre and J. B. Holland were an appointed committee to see
[the member] about using intoxicating drinks. The committee conferred
with [the member]. He confessed to his fault and promised not to do so
any more, asked the Session to pray for help to overcome his weakness, the
committee reported, and [this member's] request was granted."
Some of the offenses and results were bizarre, even by nineteenth-
century standards. According to the 1892 minutes, after three members
acknowledged they had been fighting in public and had allowed their
workmen to break the Fourth Commandment (taking the Lord's name in
vain), the Session judgment was that "the acknowledgments of the three
brethren as well as all offenses after this should be read out by Pastor at
Although the minutes reflect a diminishing number of similar secret
judgments, the Session continued to hand out discipline for the next
thirty years. The last one noted was dated January 1943, when a congre-
gant was suspended indefinitely from the church rolls after admitting to
By then the church had grown to a membership of more than one
thousand with a budget of $30,000.
Gracious God, who has come to us in Jesus Christ, we thank you
for your abiding presence. Your Banner for us is Love, and your
Will for us is Peace. You have kept faith with us in times past and
we trust you will continue with us in the times that lie ahead.
— From a morning prayer by the Reverend Dr. James G.
Stuart, senior minister, 1969— 198J
l6 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that
First Church of Gastonia enjoyed an early succession of strong minis-
ters and a meteoric rise in membership, but neither would have been
possible without far-sighted and influential lay leaders who had chosen to
make their homes in the city that called itself "the Combed-Yarn Spin-
ning Capital" of the world. That legacy of lay leadership has remained
throughout the long history of the church. Although the church is wel-
coming and encourages new membership, a visitor today can often hear
someone being described as the grandson or the granddaughter of a
founder. The church's early families remain active today.
First Church and Gastonia grew up together, and some of the church's
early members were among the city's most successful business owners,
doctors, dentists, educators, and lawyers. Many city, county, and state
political leaders came from within the ranks of First Church's members,
including J. H. Fayssoux, the mayor in 1882, the year the church was
founded. That tradition has continued through the years, with members
serving as mayors, city council members, city managers, Gaston County
commissioners, and state legislators.
The building of First Church's grand religious structure in 1895 could
not have been possible without members who had the personal resources
to support it. After all, there were only 236 members at the time, and they
were building a church to hold one thousand members. Their building
cost nearly $20,000, an enormous sum for the times. A large bronze bell
for the steeple was forged in a South Carolina foundry and survives to-
day as the toll bell of the Memorial Carillon of the Garrison Boulevard
Over the years a few lay leaders often have acted as anonymous do-
nors to help the church over financial difficulties, contributing to special
projects and scholarships. As recently as 1990, such donors underwrote
the cost of hiring an outside consultant to conduct a study of the church
administratively and physically. They also have enabled young people to
further their Christian education and have contributed the special funds
for the establishment of the Heritage Room at the church and many other
The Building and Subscription Committee that was selected for the
new building in 1895 was perhaps the best example of how the lay lead-
ership operated. It was composed of six powerful men, each a leader in
business and community affairs. The chairman, George Washington Ra-
gan, was a successful manufacturer and one of the founders of Gastonia's
first textile mill in 1887 and its second in 1893. He founded the city's first
bank in 1890. He was the grandfather of members John C. Mason III, the
late Mary Elizabeth Torrence, Martha Barnett Beal, James Taylor Jr., and
Alice Taylor Arkin.
Other committee members who were prominent business owners were
R. C. G. Love, his son, John F. Love, who was church treasurer, Frank A.
Costner, and Eli N. Lineberger. The last committee member, Dr. Charles
E. Adams, was one of the town's few physicians and druggists and grand-
father to Robert L. Adams Jr. and the late Dr. Simeon H. Adams.
The son of a farmer, G. W. Ragan had established a popular mercan-
tile company in downtown Gastonia and had expanded his business inter-
ests into cotton manufacturing, banking, and real estate. Born on a farm
in the South Point area of Gaston County, Ragan had enlisted at age sev-
enteen in the Confederate Army and fought in the Battle of Bentonville
in eastern North Carolina. After the war, he ran the family farm before
starting his G. W. Ragan and Company store at South Point and then
l8 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Session, 1898. Top row: J. E. Page; J. Q. Holland, clerk. Middle row: J. R. Shannon;
Rev. M. M. Shields, pastor; B. G. Bradley. Bottom row: C. E. Adams, A. M. Smyre.
adding stores at Lowell, McAdenville, and finally in Gastonia in 1886. He
was a shrewd buyer and accumulated stock on his trips to Baltimore and
New York City.
R. C. G. Love also had served in the Confederate Army before return-
ing to his home in the Crowders Creek section of Gaston County. He
married the daughter of a Mount Holly merchant and also entered the
mercantile business in Gastonia. Love was the great-grandfather of Louise
Love Keir, a fourth-generation First Church member. In 1887, Love pro-
moted the first Gastonia textile mill and was its largest stockholder. John
Franklin Love was one of his three sons, who, along with George Gray,
later promoted the giant Loray Mill. The so-called million-dollar mill's
1 *. . ••
BM I ~
Board of Deacons, 1898. Top row: R. T. Harper; J. F. Love, treasurer; E. F. Glenn,
chairman; G. W. Ragan, secretary; J. A. Hunter. Bottom row: F. A. Costner, T. W.
Wilson, J. Lee Robinson, J. E. Curry, T. C. Pegram.
name was a combination of the first two letters of Love — LO — and the
last three of Gray — RAY— to spell Loray. This mill was the largest textile
mill under one roof in the world. John F. Love's significant contributions
and unselfish service to the church and community continued.
As two of the city's leading businessmen, John Love and George Ragan
often challenged each other to match contributions in church, civic, and
community matters. Both held many posts in the city, and Ragan later
was elected mayor.
Some of the funds for the new Marietta Street church in 1895 came
from contributions for memorial stained-glass windows. Installed on three
sides of the sanctuary, the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows memorialized
William A. Love (1872— 1890) and Susie Love (1883-1884), children of Mr.
and Mrs. R. C. G. Love; Dr. Robert H. Adams (1854-1888); Mrs. Amanda
Zoe Ragan (1862-1891), first wife of George W. Ragan; Robert A. Wil-
20 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
liamson (1887-1891), son of Mr. and Mrs. A. C. Williamson; and Harry
E. Gallant (1854-1888), son of Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Gallant. Today one of
the windows is in three sections in a small chapel in the historic Dallas
Park near Gaston College. Four more memorial windows are owned by
two First Presbyterian Church families.
Mrs. James Robinson, the former Nancy Dean McLean, of Wilming-
ton, North Carolina, donated another architectural treasure to the Heri-
tage Room. She gave the Italian carved capital from one of the five col-
umns that supported the balcony of the Marietta Street church. It is now
on display in the Heritage Room.
Ragan's wise counsel in the affairs of the church extended over half a
century, lasting almost until his death in 1936 at the age of eighty-nine.
When John F. Love moved to Charlotte in 1911, Ragan purchased the
Love home and its grounds, which adjoined the church property on Mar-
ietta Street. He donated a portion of the property to First Church, and
eventually the property held a building used by the Boy Scouts.
Because of Ragan's success as chairman of the 1895 building cam-
paign, he was asked again in 1907 to lead the building committee for
West Avenue Presbyterian Church, the first daughter church established
by First Church. In 1911, Armstrong Memorial Church was established as
the second daughter church of First Church. (The Reverend R. Manfred
Johnston IV is the current interim minister there.) When the building was
completed, the family of Col. C. B. Armstrong and his business associate,
A. K. Winget, requested that they be allowed to assume the remaining
debt of the building as a memorial to Armstrong. A. K. Winget's grand-
son, Knox Winget III, serves as a ruling elder today at First Church.
Elected to the Session in 1902, Ragan also was a leader in the Men's
Bible Class and was often selected to represent the church at Presbytery
and Synod meetings. His sons, George W Ragan Jr. and Caldwell Ragan,
continued their father's legacy of service.
Of course, Ragan, Love, and the other members of that early build-
ing committee were not the only outstanding and dedicated lay leaders
of the late 1800s and early to mid-i900s. Others included Alfred Mon-
roe Smyre, James Quinn Holland, J. Lee Robinson, James Holland Ken-
nedy, Dr. Enos Franklin Glenn, and John Frank Jackson. Names such as
FOUNDING FATHERS 21
Adams, Akers, Armstrong, Barnett, Craig, Dickson, Dunn, Efird, Falls,
Garrison, Garland, Henry, Jones, Keith, LaFar, Kimbrell, Loftin, Mackie,
Matthews, McLean, Patrick, Rankin, Ray, Stewart, Summerell, Taylor,
Timberlake, Torrence, Watson, Wetzell, Winget, and Zeigler would also
become prominent in the later life of the church in the twentieth and
O God, who weaves your providential purposes through all the
changing circumstances of our lives and who works through the
dedicated efforts of faithful men and women across the years,
come now in our generation to renew your church. . . .
In the Name of Him who is Lord of the Church, even
Jesus Christ. Amen.
— From a prayer of the people, by the Reverend Dr. Douglas
Aldrich, interim pastor of congregational care, 2002—200$
22 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
YEARS OF GRACE
Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the un-
godly. . . . he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,
that bringeth forth its fruit in its season.
—Psalm 1:1, 3
In photographs, the Reverend Dr. James Henderlite appears tall, thin,
and stiff-backed, with just a hint of a smile under a neatly trimmed
moustache. But photographs do not convey the good judgment, thought-
fulness, kindness, and high degree of caring for others that made him a
most beloved senior minister of First Presbyterian Church for more than
He was so revered that over the years his congregation gave him five
new cars, including the first new Chevrolet in Gastonia, and a lifetime
pension upon his retirement. Coming to the church at a time when the
community was booming, Dr. Henderlite quickly assumed a major lead-
ership role in both church and community. A tireless worker for both, he
set the tone for the growth of First Church and defined its mission, giving
it a new standard and a new legacy that demanded excellence, diligence,
and reverence. Dr. Henderlite 's strict Presbyterianism is evident today in
the natural tension between traditionalists and innovators.
After the Reverend R. C. Anderson left First Church in September
1911, the church had encountered some difficulty in finding a replacement.
Dr. James H. Henderlite, pastor, 1912— 1940.
Four ministers, the Reverend Dr. H. W. Burwell, the Reverend Mr. E. E.
Gillespie, the Reverend Dr. C. M. Richards, and the Reverend Dr. J. H.
Lacy, declined invitations to come before Dr. Henderlite accepted the
Two members of the pulpit committee, Arthur C. Jones and John
Frank Jackson, traveled to Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the fall of 1912
to hear Dr. Henderlite preach and lead a men's Bible class. They were
impressed and recommended that he preach at the church in Gastonia.
(The practice of asking ministerial candidates to preach before the home
congregation was a standard custom before extending the actual call of a
new senior minister.) After he preached in Gastonia, the pulpit commit-
tee asked if he would accept the call, if offered. Dr. Henderlite replied,
24 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
"There is only one thing I am afraid of, and that is that I am not big
enough for the job."
At the time, the church had 644 members and a budget of $8,242.78.
The church was able to offer Dr. Henderlite a salary of $1,500 a year, plus
a home in the manse.
A native of Smythe County, Virginia, deep in the Blue Ridge Moun-
tains, Dr. Henderlite was forty years old at the time of the call to Gas-
tonia. He and his wife, Nelle, had three small children, Virginia, Rachel,
and James Jr. A graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, Henderlite also
held degrees from Columbia and Louisville Presbyterian seminaries. He
had been ordained in 1897 and served five years at pastorates in Accomac,
Virginia, then five years at Henderson, North Carolina, and finally five
years at Fredericksburg.
By all accounts, Dr. Henderlite was the quintessential Presbyterian
minister. Well-educated and informed, he delivered thoughtful sermons
that embodied what many felt was the word of God. One of four broth-
ers, all of whom were ministers, he was a constant visitor in the homes of
his parishioners and during their hospital stays. His responsiveness did
not end there. He also believed in service to community. He immedi-
ately immersed himself in Gastonia civic affairs. Over the years he was in-
volved in every major civic, charitable, or community effort.
When he first came to Gastonia, Dr. Henderlite "wore a short, tight-
fitting coat and a collar which buttoned in the back, much on the order
of the sort worn by the brethren of the Episcopal faith," Hugh Query
wrote in his 1948 history of the church. Dr. Henderlite soon opted for a
long-tailed frock coat with a wing collar and striped morning pants. Some
church members remember having seen him in a white suit for Sunday
services. In the early days, he sometimes made home visits on a bicycle.
Robert L. Adams Jr., a current member, recalls one of those visits. His
mother, Mrs. R. L. Adams Sr., hosted weekly bridge games with Mrs. Ed
Adams, Mrs. Joe Wray, and Mrs. Hugh Query. Dr. Henderlite made an
unannounced visit one afternoon during one of their games. Since card
playing was not seen as an acceptable pastime in those days, the hostess
was a long time recovering from her embarrassment.
Under Dr. Henderlite's direction, the church entered a boom time, co-
years OF GRACE 25
Men of the church on Marietta Street, circa 1916.
inciding with the boom that Gastonia had begun to experience as the
combed-yarn capital of the world. Within a few short years, the church
membership climbed to 1,200 and Gaston County's textile mill employ-
ment grew. In the custom of the day, the Henderlites were allowed to pur-
chase stock in some of the mills.
By 1917, Dr. Henderlite's salary had been raised to $2,400 per year, and
by 1918, the church employed the Reverend George R. Gillespie of Ver-
sailles, Kentucky, as an assistant minister at $1,500 a year. Dr. Gillespie
threw himself into his new job with much zeal. First Church installed
him also as the first minister of the Armstrong Memorial Church, which
had been organized seven years earlier on South Broad Street under the
sponsorship of First Church. It was dedicated formally in 1921.
By 1919, Dr. Henderlite was able to write in the annual report to the
26 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Women of rhe church on Marietta Street, circa 1916.
Church attendance has been very good at the morning services, only
fairly good at night and poor at prayer meetings. There does not seem
to be flagrant desecration of the Sabbath. The training of children
in the homes in scripture and catechism is probably not general.
This is right faithful, however, in Sabbath schools. The people show
an increasing fidelity in worshipping God with substance and in
supporting and extending the Gospel. The pastor's salary is $3,000.
It is fully paid. This year has been one of increasing interest and
organization. The church conducts four mission schools and also
employs a congregational missionary who labors at various points in
the town. We are not doing as much as we should perhaps.
Early in his tenure the church added a Sunday school annex, with
classrooms opening off the sanctuary. Seven years later, a two-story Sun-
day school building with basement was constructed. The "Hut," designed
for a pastor's study and offices for his secretary, assistant, other staff mem-
bers, and youth, was built in the early 1920s. In 1923, Boy Scout Troop 11
YEARS OF GRACE
was started under Dr. Henderlite's pastorate, and as the program grew, a
Scout hut was built on adjoining property, donated by George W. Ragan.
Troop us first Scoutmaster was S. Wilkes Dendy, assistant to Dr. Hen-
derlite and the first director of young people's work.
Many improvements were made to the church plant, including a re-
modeling and renovation of the manse, the building of a garage to replace
the barn that had served the former pastor, Dr. Anderson, and the mod-
ernization of the church kitchen. Several pianos for the Sunday school
were purchased, as well as silver and china for the church dining room. A
fine Kimball pipe organ was installed, the generous gift of Mr. and Mrs.
Thomas L. Craig.
The heart of Gastonia's business district, circa 1920.
28 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Men of the church on Marietta Street, circa 1922.
Miss Ola Moton was a beloved town missionary. Sabbath schools were
taught by devoted ladies in the church. Miss Hattie Stowe and Mrs. Ed
Adams taught catechisms. Miss Stowe arranged her first-grade class at
Central School to include Presbyterian children. If they didn't learn the
catechism on Sunday, she taught it to them on public school time.
Progress continued over the years. By 1921, the annual report reflected
1,211 members and a budget of $55,076 when the Sunday school build-
ing had to be constructed to accommodate religious education. By 1926,
the budget had grown to $59,321 and Dr. Henderlite's salary had been
increased to $5,000. He had been at the church for thirteen years, and
many of the members of the congregation felt it was time he be awarded
Dr. Henderlite had often talked about wanting to visit the Holy Land.
A few key congregants contributed $2,100 (raised largely through the gen-
erosity of J. Lee Robinson) to cover Dr. Henderlite's expenses on a four-
teen-week trip to the Holy Land, which included a number of destina-
tions in England, Europe, and the Mediterranean.
The Monday, May 17, 1926, edition of the Gastonia Gazette carried a
story with the headline: "Farewell Service at Presbyterian Church." Be-
fore his sermon on the previous Sunday night, Dr. Henderlite "expressed
his genuine appreciation of the generous spirit of the congregation, which
YEARS OF GRACE
had enabled him to realize this ambition of his life." To emphasize this
point, his sermon was titled "The Good Shepherd," based on John 10:14,
the parable of the shepherd making sure that not one sheep would be
Dr. Henderlite left New York for England the following Saturday, May
22, on the cruise ship Leviathan. He sailed among more than 2,500 pas-
sengers. He had told First Church member Hugh Query, editor of the
Gastonia Gazette, that he would mail home reports Query could publish
if he so desired.
The editor was delighted to receive the first report, dated June 2, from
London and was especially delighted when Dr. Henderlite continued his
travelogues over the next two months. In all Henderlite mailed twenty-
one reports, each more than two thousand words long, a total of more
than forty thousand words. These articles are thought to have been col-
lected and published in a booklet, but apparently the booklet did not sur-
vive. The handwritten articles are archived in the Heritage Room, along
with letters to Mrs. Henderlite, and the printed articles are on microfilm
of the Gaston Gazette at the Gaston County Public Library. Each article
included fascinating descriptions of people and places that Dr. Henderlite
encountered. Good history lessons laced with political and social com-
mentary, they were delightfully humorous, especially considering that they
were written by a Presbyterian minister who was quite reserved.
Dr. Henderlite's messages from Europe give us a rare glimpse of the
kind of person he was. It is obvious from reading his reports that he was
not only a minister, but also a scholar. Before he approached a famous
historic site, he conducted thorough research. His letters home instruct
the reader in history, religion, anthropology, archeology, and geography.
Reading them is better than reading a history book, because Dr. Hender-
lite spiced his reports with quips and quotes. His style was breezy, not
stiff. We can only imagine the readers back home, both Gazette subscrib-
ers and First Church parishioners, eagerly awaiting the next letter from
Since there are no known recordings of Dr. Henderlite's sermons,
prayers, or talks, his reports from abroad give us an insight into his per-
A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
sonality and approach to life. Only highlights of his trip are included
In the first report, Dr. Henderlite told of visiting England and being
intrigued by the old churches and cathedrals that held much historical in-
terest. He wrote that many of them dated from about the middle of the
eleventh century, when the Normans invaded England. From Edinburgh,
he described the picturesque beauty of the Scottish countryside. He rev-
eled at being in the heart of Presbyterianism.
His reports from Paris easily captured Dr. Henderlite's sense of won-
derment. He started his letters from there with a long description of some
of the contents of the Louvre, noting that it covered forty-five acres and
contained the largest and finest collection of paintings and statuary in the
world. He quickly learned to love the outdoor cafes and fine food, but
he made fun of his inability to be understood. "The people in general
here cannot understand their own language when they hear it spoken," he
Over and over again I have had this experience with them myself.
In my polished and faultless French I have asked some simple
question or commented on some familiar every day matter that
even the children should be acquainted with only to be met with
polite but hopeless inability to understand what I am talking about.
This is true practically everywhere I go and among all classes of
people — shopkeepers, waiters, policemen, taxi drivers, hotel clerks
and passing pedestrians. They are very courteous about it, being
French, and are probably no little embarrassed by their ignorance.
I hope that maybe some good will come of my visit, and that the
government of France realizing that something is sadly wrong
with the present system of education will take early steps toward
remedying the situation. A rather surprising feature of this, it may
be said, is the fact that I find my English is really better understood
in Paris than my French. One would naturally think they would
learn their own language first. Just as a sample, by the way, of how
they fail to recognize their own tongue, I ordered poached eggs,
YEARS OF GRACE 31
toast and coffee the other day, speaking in the most finished and
careful manner, just as it is in the books on "How to master French
in three days," and the very bright and attractive waitress brought
me a plate of soup and a newspaper.
Dr. Henderlite also had a wonderful time visiting the treasures and won-
ders of Versailles and Fontainebleau.
In Rome Dr. Henderlite found several items that heightened his de-
sire to visit the Holy Land. He visited the Scala Santa, or the Holy Stairs,
which were supposedly taken from Jerusalem and were reported to be the
very steps that Jesus went up to enter the judgment hall of Pilate. He also
visited the prison where Paul was supposedly kept before his death and
the tomb where Peter was said to be buried. He spent many hours at St.
Peter's Basilica, marveling over the many treasures there.
After a visit to Naples, Dr. Henderlite boarded the USS California for
a trip across the Mediterranean Sea through the Greek Isles to Constan-
tinople (now Istanbul), Turkey. Then, by rail and automobile, he went
on to Damascus, Syria, and to Beirut, Lebanon. He would take a guided
tour by automobile to the Holy Land.
In the September 6, 1926, edition of the Gastonia Gazette, readers re-
ceived Dr. Henderlite's first report from the Holy Land. Written on Au-
gust 9 from Jerusalem, the article sparkles with his excitement at finally
reaching his long-awaited destination.
The trip to Galilee, he wrote,
was a most memorable experience by reason of the beauty and
grandeur of much of the scenery, the picturesqueness of the country
with its shepherds and flocks of sheep and long eared black goats,
its Bedouin Arabs and their camps, its camel trains and donkeys . . .
its occasional wide stretching fields of green Egyptian corn or its
harvest wheat fields in which an occasional woman would be seen,
like Ruth of old, gleaning the scant wheat stalks that had escaped
the sickles of the harvesters.
After seeing where the River Jordan flows into the Sea of Galilee, Dr.
Henderlite had lunch at Tiberius and then went on to Cana. "Nazareth
32 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
was, of course, one of the outstanding places in our itinerary, the boyhood
home of Jesus," he continued.
It is the best town in Galilee, which is not saying a great deal for
it. It is a fair sized town, but very dirty and full of poverty and
squalor. There we saw one of the places where genuineness is hardly
questioned, "Mary's Well." You can almost count on your fingers
the places in Palestine mentioned in the Bible that can be definitely
identified today. But all seem agreed that this is the very well from
which Mary as a young maiden and later as wife and mother used to
carry water for the needs of the household. We saw the women filling
their jars with water, or standing about chattering and gossiping, or
leaving the well, which is really a spring, with the heavy jars balanced
on their heads, just as Mary did, no doubt, 1900 years ago.
From Nazareth, Dr. Henderlite journeyed to Jacob's well. "To no
place in Palestine had I looked forward more eagerly than to the well of
Jacob," he wrote. "It is another of the famous Bible spots whose genu-
ineness is unquestioned." Dr. Henderlite drank of the water and found
it "excellent, clear and cold," and as he drank he wrote that he thought
of the "thousands of various creeds and bloods" who had drunk from it
He told of visiting the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount
of Olives and of a short rowboat ride on the River Jordan. Presumably the
water he brought back to Gastonia, which he used to baptize infants in
First Church for years, was from the River Jordan.
Continuing with his Holy Land report, Dr. Henderlite showed his
sense of humor: "On the way to Jerusalem we passed the Inn of the Good
Samaritan. The Good Samaritan took the wounded man to this inn and
gave the host two pence to pay his hotel bill. After we had looked at the
inn we decided that, as is said to be usual with hotel keepers, this one had
over charged the Samaritan."
His last Holy Land trip report told of his visit to Bethlehem and then
on to Egypt for his first camel ride, which he managed without any prob-
lems. He closed his reports:
YEARS OF GRACE 33
And will I be glad to get back home? If anyone asks you, do not
hesitate to answer yes. It has been a truly wonderful trip from start
to finish and I have enjoyed it beyond the power of expression. But
mid pleasures and palaces there is no place like home: and of all the
many interesting countries I have seen, there is none I would swap
for the good old United States. These other lands are fine to visit,
provided you don't have to stay too long in some of them. They can
interest and amuse you and often they can teach you a great deal,
for there are some things we can learn from them and be none the
worse. But I am glad I am an American, and when it comes to living
day by day, year in and year out, there is no place in the world like
the United States.
Dr. Henderlite returned home on the Leviathan along with General
John J. Pershing and 2,578 others, then a record number of civilian pas-
sengers at one time on any cruise ship. He was renewed and refreshed.
The church continued to grow.
Dr. Henderlite's pastorate was full of service to his congregation, the
people of his community, and to the Presbytery, Synod, and General As-
sembly. He became president of the Gastonia Rotary Club, chairman of
the board of Garrison General Hospital, a high-ranking member of the
Masonic Lodge, and a member of the Inter-racial Council in Gastonia.
He was a major figure in the Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cross,
the Salvation Army, the public library, and the Christmas Seal Commit-
tee. He served on the boards of trustees at Presbyterian Junior College
in Maxton, Montreat College, Queens College in Charlotte, and Union
Theological Seminary in Richmond. He was a member of the Commit-
tee of Forty-four, a policy-making organization of laymen and ministers
of the Southern Presbyterian Church. He served on the General Assem-
bly's Stewardship Committee and the Christian Education Board. He was
moderator of the Synod of North Carolina in 1923 and served as a com-
missioner to General Assembly many times. Davidson College conferred
upon him a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1918. Dr. Henderlite was one of
the few Gastonians to be listed at that time in Who's Who in America.
But the good times were not to last. The church was hit hard by the
34 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
First Presbyterian Church on Marietta Street, pen and ink rendering circa 1930.
Great Depression that began in October 1929, and the congregation had
difficulty meeting the budget. At his request, in 1931, Dr. Henderlite's sal-
ary was reduced to $5,000 — the 1926 level — and the church trimmed the
budget to $37,622. In 1934, his salary was $4,000 and the church budget
fell below $20,000.
By January 1938, the nation had begun to prosper again, and Dr. Hen-
derlite was honored in a special ceremony on his twenty-fifth anniversary
as minister of First Church. "You have been mighty good to me," he told
his congregation. "These twenty-five years have been the happiest of my
life. There have been no discord, no factions, no differences, no splits or
quarrels in the church in this time. No one has said an unkind or cross
word to me in all this time and harmony and satisfaction have prevailed."
Henderlite recalled that he had preached 2,500 sermons, baptized 780
infants, performed 257 marriages, conducted 383 funerals, and made be-
tween 25,000 and 30,000 home or hospital visits.
The Rotary Club also honored Dr. Henderlite with a special program
YEARS OF GRACE
at the Armington Hotel. "He has been an aggressive leader in everything
pertaining to the general welfare and moral uplift of our community,"
Rotarian John R. Rankin told the crowd.
In his twenty-seventh year of his ministry at First Church, Dr. Hen-
derlite fell ill with influenza and spent several months in Florida in at-
tempts to recover. But by June 1940 it was obvious that he could not con-
tinue, and he tendered his resignation effective July 1, 1940. The Gastonia
Gazette paid tribute to him in an editorial: "By virtue of his long period
of faithful and devoted service, Dr. Henderlite has become the Nestor of
the pastors of this city, and, perhaps, of the county." (Nestor was a leg-
endary Greek figure known for his long life and wisdom.) The congrega-
tion reluctantly voted to accept his resignation, awarding him a pension
of $1,800 per year for the rest of his life. Although he attended services
occasionally after his resignation, he never fully recovered physically and
died on January 17, 1942, at the age of seventy. In his honor, the name of
the Men's Bible Class, which he had taught for many years, was changed
to the Henderlite Bible Class.
His daughter, Dr. Rachel Henderlite, received her Ph.D. from Yale Di-
vinity School and became the first ordained female in the Presbyterian
Church. For many years, she was professor of Applied Christianity, or re-
ligious education, at the General Assembly Training School in Richmond,
later named Presbyterian School of Christian Education. Some classes at
Union Theological Seminary were added to her teaching schedule. Rachel
resigned her position in Richmond to become a professor at Austin Semi-
nary in Texas. She was a popular keynote speaker and lecturer, whose keen
sense of humor endeared her to audiences. She authored several books
and study guides and chaired important General Assembly committees.
Among her books were A Call to Faith and We All Are Barabas. She wrote
texts for Covenant Life Curriculum — the staple church-schools literature
for Presbyterians. She also was a prominent participant in the first march
advocating desegregation in the South.
In February 1946, the church presented a $10,000 scholarship endow-
ment in Dr. James Henderlite's name to Union Theological Seminary of
36 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Dr. Henderlite's other daughter, Virginia, became a director of Chris-
tian education and married the Reverend Frank Jones, a Presbyterian min-
ister. Their son, James H. Jones, has served as a deacon and is presently an
elder at First Church, Gastonia.
Father, we pray for our world; may there be peace on earth good-
will toward all. We thank you for those who reach out to others,
iv ho work and labor for peace and goodwill among all people.
Bless their labors.
— From a Christmas prayer, December 5, ippp, by the Reverend
Dr. Wilson P. Rhotonjr., interim associate minister for
congregational care, ippy—ippp
YEARS OF GRACE 37
A MINISTER FOR
THE WAR YEARS
How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul
longs, yea, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh
sing for joy to the living God.
— Psalm 84:1-2
The Reverend Irving M. Ellis, who had been assistant minister to Dr.
Henderlite, was chosen by the congregation to succeed him on Sep-
tember 8, 1940, after illness forced Dr. Henderlite to resign. At the time,
it was a very unusual move for a Presbyterian church to promote an assis-
tant to the senior position. Now such an action is prohibited by the Gen-
The Reverend Ellis led the church through the stressful years of World
War II and into the Korean War era. He was a popular youth leader, but
his real strength lay in his talent as a gifted singer and musician. He used
his musical background to attract the first of many talented musicians to
First Church as staff members.
The Reverend Ellis' education and background were a departure from
the norm in the church's selection of senior ministers. Most of his pre-
decessors had been Southerners, many of them educated at Davidson or
other Southern colleges or universities. Ellis was a native of a Chicago
Rev. Irving M. Ellis, pastor, 1940-1950.
suburb and received his training at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago be-
fore going on to Roanoke College and then to Union Theological Semi-
nary in Richmond.
The Reverend Irving Ellis, called "Deac" by close friends, first came
to Gastonia in 1923 as part of a group of Union seminary students visit-
ing First Church to help with the music program. He was called in 1937
as assistant pastor and music director and was asked to work with the
youth under Dr. Henderlite. He organized the junior high and senior high
youth divisions meeting on Sunday nights in the Hut, a small building be-
side the education building on Marietta Street. The Reverend Ellis and
his wife taught Vacation Bible School each year. The Reverend Ellis also
accompanied the youth to summer camps at Camp Cherokee in the Kings
Mountain Battleground and to the Montreat Youth Conferences. He was
40 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
a successful youth minister and is recalled today by his current Presbyte-
rian parishioners for his youth leadership. Alice Wood, who was a teen-
ager during Ellis' tenure at First Church, said, "He was kind, but firm
and strict. I remember him as being very talented musically. He taught
us songs and he would play the marimba for us." Helen Mando said, "He
was wonderful. I just loved him."
The Reverend Ellis soon became known among members of his con-
gregation for his unusually long sermons. Young people in the balcony
used to compete at guessing how long he would preach. They would time
him from the beginning of his sermon to the end, when the Reverend El-
lis said, "Let us pray." He used to call on the late John Akers' father, the
Reverend Dr. W. W. Akers, a retired minister, to deliver the benedic-
tion at the end of every Sunday morning worship service. (The Reverend
Junior Choir at Marietta Street church, 1946. Front row: Mary Thompson, Norma
Jean Yarbrough, Margaret Boyce, Theresa Ward, Katherine Anthony, Gail Cherry,
Catherine Morrow, Kay Faust, Judy Jackson, Jimmy Giles, Ralph Falls Jr., Larry
Giles, Jimmy Walton, Jo Ann Kluttz, Bobby Gray. Back row: Florence Robinson,
Nancy Thompson, Doris Ann Yarbrough, Douglas Boyce, Mack Giles, Jean Ether-
idge, Sarah Adams, David Mackorell, Sally Dozier, Ruby Neal Ford, Irene Cherry,
Charles Loftin III, Betty Jean Glenn, Kay Ellis.
A MINISTER FOR THE WAR YEARS 41
Wedding of Margaret Kempton and Roy Kelly, February
20, 1943, Marietta Street church.
Dr. Akers served as supply minister at Armstrong Memorial Presbyterian
from September 1942 to February 1943.)
The Reverend Ellis had a polished tenor voice. He was an accom-
plished pianist and organist and loved to play the marimba, although he
played only in the evening service and on other occasions, never at the
eleven o'clock worship service. Occasionally, he performed at public func-
tions outside the church. He also was a powerful swimmer with a Johnny
Weissmuller physique. Ellis and his wife, Lulawill, had two girls and two
boys, worked well with young people, and were well liked by them. Mrs.
Ellis was a talented musician in her own right and served as organist when
42 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Young People's Coun-
cil, May 1954, at home
of Mr. and Mrs. Robert
Gordon (Mrs. Gordon is
playing the piano).
needed. Under the Reverend Ellis' leadership, Sunday night youth fellow-
ships were started. Robert and Lucille Gordon were lay leaders who enter-
tained youth groups at "Singings" in their home and at a river house.
Beloved church secretary "Miss Bess" Jackson began serving under the
Reverend Ellis in 1941 as the only office staff member. Longtime mem-
bers recall that Miss Bess wore a hearing aid
around her neck and would hold the tele-
phone receiver upside down to talk. In the
closing years of Dr. Henderlite's administra-
tion, First Church member Neale Patrick,
then a recent graduate of the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill, became edi-
tor of a newly created weekly newsletter, the
Beacon. When Miss Bess arrived, she took
over as editor of the Beacon and served it
faithfully until 1964.
In 1942, Katherine (Kitty) McChesney
was employed as director of religious educa-
tion. She married H. S. Mackie in 1944. In
1945 Mary Olive Walker became director of "Miss Bess" P. Jackson.
A MINISTER FOR THE WAR YEARS
religious education. Miss Walker later became a McChesney also, when
she married Kitty's brother, Charles. (The position of DRE was changed
by the General Assembly to Director of Christian Education [DCE] in
the 1960s.) The Reverend Linwood Cheshire was called as associate min-
ister to the Reverend Ellis and served from 1944 until November 1947.
Aided by the fact that the Reverend Ellis was an accomplished mu-
sician, the music program at First Church flourished under his leader-
ship. Miss Helen Hubbard, a graduate of Westminster Choir College in
Princeton, New Jersey, became the church's first female director of mu-
sic. She was followed by Martha Enck, who became director of music
in 1942. After nine months in the post, she married Bill Loftin, assistant
Sunday school superintendent, whose grandfather was John Frank Jack-
son, a charter member. Emma Binns Bercaw of Roanoke, Virginia, fol-
lowed Loftin as music director. Both Mrs. Loftin and Mrs. Bercaw were
also graduates of Westminster Choir College.
During the Reverend Ellis' pastorate, three local missions, Adams Me-
morial Church and Piedmont and Mountain View chapels, were estab-
lished with the help of great lay leadership. At Piedmont Chapel, Wade
Williford, Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Gordon, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Moss,
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Moss, Verne Shive, and Mrs. John Wilkins were out-
standing lay leaders.
It was also during the Reverend Ellis' pastorate that First Church at-
tracted an unusual pair of new members, Hilda Kreutzer and her mother,
two Jewish women who had escaped the Holocaust. Hilda Kreutzer
had come from Germany to Gastonia with her husband Adolf and her
mother. A piano teacher, Hilda was asked to play for the Women's Bible
Class at First Church in early 1942. When she heard soloist Roy Sudduth
sing "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," she was so overcome with
emotion that she decided to join the church. Her mother also joined. Her
husband never did. Upon Hilda's death in 2002, she left an endowment
of more than $450,000 for the Crisis Assistance Ministry for Christians
and Jews in Greater Gastonia, Inc. Roy Sudduth's granddaughter, Katie
Clark, continues the tradition as a musician in the church today. She sings
in the choir, plays the flute and handbells, and directs the youth handbell
44 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Fred A. Ratchford, deacon, elder,
and clerk of Session.
Hilda Kreutzer, convert to Christianity
and benefactor of Crisis Assistance
choirs. Leslie Lewis, a gifted handbell soloist, also directs children's hand-
bell choirs. Miss Lewis performs regularly for First Church and is also
asked to perform in area churches.
Foreign missions were important in the life of the church in the Rever-
end Ellis' day. But an unusual situation arose in July 1950 when the church
attempted to give $2,500 to the Presbyterian Church Foreign Missions
to buy a new Jeep for the missionary in western Brazil, the Reverend
Reichardt Taylor. The following inscription was to go on the Jeep: "Given
to Presbyterian World Missions in Brazil in loving memory of Mr. and
Mrs. Frost Torrence and Mr. and Mrs. James H. Kennedy by Mr. and
Mrs. Charlton K. Torrence, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Julian, Mr. and Mrs.
George Gray, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. John O. Durham and Mrs. Marie Tor-
rence Lattimore." When World Missions personnel discovered that Bra-
zilian law would prevent the importation of a new vehicle, the olive drab
Jeep was driven around Nashville by church personnel until it could be
reclassified as a used vehicle and then shipped to Brazil.
A MINISTER FOR THE WAR YEARS 45
Ellis left First Church to become director of religious education in
the Appalachia Synod at Knoxville. Upon his resignation in December
1950, to be effective January 1, 1951, he was presented with the keys to a
new Pontiac. The gift was a sign of great affection from members of the
Controversy among some members of the First Church congregation
over the Reverend Ellis' manner and style in leading the church was obvi-
ous in the resolution accepting his resignation in 1950. "He has hewn the
line, let the chips fall where they would," it read in part. "He has given us
the pure and unadulterated gospel, not tainted with the malevolence of
modernism." King College in Bristol, Tennessee, conferred upon him the
Doctor of Divinity degree.
A reminder of the controversy was in a June 1992 issue of the church's
Chimes newsletter reporting the death of Dr. Ellis at age ninety-three. It
said, "Dr. Ellis, in addition to his genial personality, also had a reputa-
tion as one who 'called things as he saw them.' Some members recall how
during his sermons he was direct enough to cite unchristian and immoral
behavior of specific members of the community who were sitting in the
Ellis also had many loyal friends, and he was known as a compassion-
ate pastor who took extremely good care of his flock. A resolution mark-
ing his passing stated: "Particularly during the trying days of World War
II when some of our people were called on to pass through the valley of
the shadow of death because their brave young men paid the supreme
sacrifice on a far off field of battle, in Europe, the Pacific, or on some
barren waste of coral and sand, Mr. Ellis was a source of comfort and
strength to those bereaved parents." (A list of veterans who served in vari-
ous wars is included in the appendix to this volume.)
We know there are those who call us enemies and who pray not
for us but against us. We pray for them today, as difficult as it is
to do so, because you have told us, in Jesus Christ, to pray for our
enemies and to overcome evil with good. Help us to know how to
46 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
pray appropriately for our enemies and how to hate what is evil
without being vindictive and embracing evil ourselves. Make us a
people loyal to our life and mission, our worship and witness.
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
— From a prayer for the people by the Reverend Mr. Frank
Mayes, associate pastor, 1980—1989
A MINISTER FOR THE WAR YEARS AJ
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH
For verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard
seed. . . nothing shall be impossible with you.
— Matthew 17:20
And upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it.
Afourteen-member pulpit committee, headed by Hugh A. Query, was
. named to lead the search for a successor to the Reverend Ellis. Four-
teen months later, on March 2, 1952, the call went out to the Reverend Dr.
Harry M. Moffett Jr., pastor of the University Presbyterian Church in
Austin, Texas, a church that served the University of Texas community.
Moffett, then forty-two, had been in Austin since 1945, having moved
there from First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, Missouri, the site of
the main campus of the University of Missouri. A native of Fredericks-
burg, Virginia, Moffett came from a long line of ministers and missionar-
ies. Not only was his father, Dr. H. D. Moffett (whose final pastorate was
at Davidson College for twelve years), a Presbyterian minister, but both
of his grandfathers and a brother, Polk Moffett, were Presbyterian minis-
ters as well. He also had uncles and aunts who were missionaries to China
Dr. Harry Moffett, pastor, 1952-1966.
After graduating from Davidson in 1931, where he was a classmate
of future U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Dr. Moffett worked as an
auto mechanic and teacher for more than a year before deciding to enter
Union Theological Seminary, which, along with the Presbyterian School
of Christian Education, is a theological-education institution of the Pres-
byterian Church (U.S.A.) located in Richmond, Virginia. After receiv-
ing his Doctor of Theology degree there, Moffett was called to serve four
small churches in and around Johnston City, Tennessee. He stayed there
until 1940. He left to become pastor of the Liberty Presbyterian Church
in Liberty, Missouri, near Kansas City, where he stayed until taking the
As a result of his pastorate in Columbia, he formed a friendship with
University of Missouri football coach Don Farrot, and later in Austin
forged the same relationship with the University of Texas football coach
Blair Cherry. Moffett was a sportsman and an athlete himself.
According to legend, Dr. Moffett happened to be visiting his David-
son alma mater when D. R. "Doc" LaFar, a First Church lay leader, was
vice chairman of the Davidson College board. LaFar sought advice from
the president of Davidson, Dr. John Rood Cunningham, who asked Dr.
Moffett to consider taking the First Church pastorate. To please Dr. Cun-
ningham, Dr. Moffett made the trip to meet with the pulpit committee,
although he felt the church had problems and he had reservations about
accepting a call there. The pulpit committee immediately liked Moffett,
considering him a polished and educated minister who spoke with depth,
frequently quoting religious intellectuals such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Once Dr. Moffett and his wife Margaret made the decision to move to
Gastonia, their adjustment was smooth and satisfying. The congregation
welcomed them with open arms and feted them with church suppers.
At one of these, pulpit committee member W. L. Wetzell Jr. dedicated a
takeoff of the poem "Land of the Long Leaf Pine" to the Moffett family:
Here's to the land of the long leaf pine
And here's to the Lone Star State.
Each one claims to be the best,
And both of them are great.
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH 51
But the Texans quit their boasting
'Though was pretty hard to stop it
When we lasso-ed and put our brand
On Dr. Harry Moffett.
They claim that we are rustlers
And in Texas that's a crime
But we hope they will forgive us
If we'll only give them time.
We know that they will be good sports
And won't raise too much fuss
For they know that we are getting
What really belonged to us.
So we welcome all the Moffetts
To our city, state and church.
We'll always strive to help you,
Never leave you in the lurch.
To Harry Jr., Peggy, Margaret,
Ann Stuart, Harry too,
We've already learned to love you,
And we hope you'll love us too!
The Gastonia Gazette introduced Dr. Moffett with a profile on June 14,
1952. In the article, Moffett said he and his family had found the people in
the city extremely friendly and likeable. "Our association here has been
very good," he said, "and we think that Gastonia is an excellent place."
Moffett agreed to come to Gastonia for a salary of $7,200 per year,
plus an annuity of 7.5 percent of his salary and a one-month vacation. The
church also bought a house for him on Carolina Avenue, allowing him to
build equity as others before him had not been able to. He told the pulpit
committee that he would stay seven or eight years.
Following the practice of allowing senior ministers to form their own
personnel teams, Dr. Moffett hired Mrs. L. C. Majors as director of
Christian education (DCE) in October 1952, but she was able to serve
only a few months. Eubank Taylor, considered one of the outstanding
DCEs in the Presbyterian Church in the United States, then came in July
52 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Dr. J. N. Brown, associate minister,
1953 as DCE. A native of Anderson, South Carolina, she was a graduate
of Winthrop College in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and the Presbyterian
School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia. She came to First
Church in Gastonia from the First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg,
South Carolina. The Reverend J. N. Brown was called as associate pastor
in October 1954. He had served as an associate minister in Baton Rouge,
A major role in the life of the church during the mid-1950s was filled
by a succession of volunteers known as pastor's aides. These dedi-
cated women worked with the church staff to gather and distribute the
names of visitors, bereaved members, and new members to Women of the
Church circle leaders who would then assign circle members to call upon
those listed. For instance, Esther (Mrs. Minor R.) Adams, a pastor's aide
in 1955, noted that the circle members made 3,499 visits. Tommye (Mrs.
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH
Ralph) Falls also was distinguished by her constant and numerous pas-
tor's aide visits.
When Dr. Moffett became senior minister, the church's fifty-seven-
year-old physical plant was in dire need of modernization. Other growth
in downtown Gastonia severely restricted the possibility of church expan-
sion. Dr. Moffett was in the pulpit a short time before he began to con-
sider what to do about the church's physical condition and its location.
The membership had grown to 1,323 with a budget of $123,806.
On December 13, 1952, a joint meeting of the executive committees of
the Session, the Diaconate, and Women of the Church representatives
Mrs. Hugh Query and Mrs. J. N. Summerell unanimously decided that
the church should plan to remain on its present site. However, the com-
mittee urged that immediate steps be taken to bring the plant to ade-
quate efficiency and size. The committee also decided to purchase strate-
gic property, looking to future colonization of the church in an outlying
area of the city.
Vacation Bible School, June 1952.
54 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
By October 18, 1953, the charge to the executive committees of the
Session and Diaconate and the outgoing and incoming presidents of the
Women of the Church had changed "to recommend the advisability of re-
maining at the present location or moving or colonization." In the mean-
time, the church had hired a Charlotte architect to look at the feasibility
of modernizing the sanctuary on Marietta Street. The architect discov-
ered that the balcony would have to be condemned, that remodeling the
sanctuary would cost $170,000, and that the size of the property left no
room for a badly needed nursery.
In the search for a site to be used for possible colonization or new con-
struction, a planning and development committee was named, with D. R.
LaFar as its chairman. Two church trustees, Ralph Falls and Ralph S.
Presbyterian house party at Camp Gallant, Montreal, North Carolina, June 1953. First
row: Dr. Harry Moffett, Mrs. S. A. Robinson, Mrs. J. R. Hudson, Miss Bess Jackson,
Mrs. Murphy, Miss Georgia Copeland. Second row: Mrs. Walter G. Rhyne, Mrs.
Louie M. Lattimore, Mrs. J. H. Matthews, Mrs. Hugh Query, Mrs. E. L. Patterson,
Miss Corinne Puett.
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH
Robinson Sr., were appointed as a site search committee. They discovered
a 10.95-acre tract available in the southeastern section of the city, an area
surrounded by many members' homes and one that a telephone executive
who was a member of the church suggested would fit the future growth
of Gastonia. The site on Kendrick Drive (later renamed Garrison Boule-
vard) was considered way out in the sticks, but the church voted on Feb-
ruary 20, 1955, to buy it for $32,580 from the heirs of Joseph Fisher Ratch-
ford, the grandfather of church member Bonnie Blair and former elder
William C. Ratchford. Ratchford also was great-grandfather to David
Ratchford, a present member, and Robert W. Ratchford, who became a
Presbyterian minister. In 1957, two smaller parcels were purchased from
the Owens family to round out the site at twelve acres.
Another part of the church property was purchased from the Janie
Kendrick family. Janie and Ralph Kendrick Sr. were brother and sister.
Ralph Kendrick Jr. is still a member. Ralph Sr., Janie, and her son, John
Cleveland Owens Jr., known as J. C., are all deceased. J. C.'s son, Steve
Owens, has been the maintenance supervisor since 1983. "I see this as my
calling," Steve Owens said. "It means a lot for me to work and care for the
church that I grew up in and was built on part of the property that be-
longed to my family."
Meanwhile, debate continued on whether to rebuild on the Marietta
Street site or move to the suburbs. Finally on April 7, 1957, the congrega-
tion voted by secret ballot 410 to 115 to move to the new site. After the
vote, the congregation sang "Blest Be the Tie That Binds."
The move was controversial, because some First Church members re-
gretted leaving the downtown area where other main-line churches were
located and many First Church members still lived. Some members feared
that in a new building on the city's fringe, the church would lose members
who would chose to attend one of the other downtown churches. Those
fears were allayed when the congregation lost only a few members.
Building a new sanctuary turned out to be a unifying experience and a
tremendous turning point in the effectiveness of the church's ministry. It
may have created the most energizing burst of enthusiasm since the build-
ing of the Marietta Street sanctuary.
With the decision to move made, the work of choosing an architect
56 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
and building contractor and raising the funds necessary to pay for it be-
gan in earnest. In July 1957, D. R. LaFar was named chairman of a Steer-
ing Committee. He was joined by a group consisting of M. R. Adams,
John M. Akers, L. G. Alexander, R. A. Dickson, W. B. Garrison, Ralph S.
Robinson Sr., and Fred L. Smyre Jr. Robinson was named treasurer.
Ralph H. Falls was named chairman of the Building Committee with
the dedicated assistance of Mrs. J. H. Matthews (Elizabeth), Mrs. J. N.
Summerell (Margaret), M. R. Adams, W. D. Lawson III, and W. R. Spar-
row. Subcommittees were named to handle specific sections, including
organ, memorials, properties, landscaping, worship, education and recre-
ation, fellowship and service facilities, and the all-important finance com-
mittee. (A complete list of all committees and members appears in the
Appendix of this volume.)
The committee considered several possible architects. After conferring
with representatives of area churches that recently had built new sanctuar-
ies, including Covenant Presbyterian of Charlotte and First United Meth-
odist of Gastonia, the committee met with nationally renowned church
architect Harold Wagoner of Philadelphia and asked him to submit pre-
liminary sketches. Wagoner, who was known for his beautiful sanctuaries,
had designed several modernistic churches as well as the interior furnish-
ings of the Protestant and Catholic chapels at the United States Air Force
Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
On August 11, 1957, Chairman Falls announced that Wagoner had been
chosen as the architect for First Church's new building and that the next
phase, choosing the design, would begin. Meanwhile, W B. Garrison,
secretary-treasurer of the Gastonia Coca-Cola Bottling Company, was
chosen as chairman of the finance committee. (Garrison was a member of
the State Highway Commission; later Garrison Boulevard was named for
him.) The church set out to raise as much money as possible to fund the
new adventure and hired Ketchum, Inc., a professional fundraising com-
pany headquartered in Pittsburgh, but with offices in Charlotte, to help
for a flat fee of $6,850.
Members of the Finance Committee remember the first meeting with
the Ketchum representative, Marshall Thompson. He asked each com-
mittee member to write down what he was willing to pledge, since the
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH 57
Wedding of Martha Barnett and Giles Beal Jr., June 26, 1952, Marietta Street.
committee would be setting the pace. Each complied without including
names and handed the cards to him. Thompson slowly rifled through the
cards and then stunned the committee members as he tore them into little
pieces and said, "If that's the best you can do, we might as well forget this
whole thing." He asked them to fill out the cards again and tore them up
again. On the third try, he nodded with satisfaction and put the cards in
his pocket. The campaign had begun.
After four months, ending on December 22, 1957, the Adventure in
Faith Building Campaign had raised $820,000. It was indeed sacrificial
A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Wedding of Sarah Adams and William B. Abernethy Jr., June 29, 1957, Marietta Street.
giving. There was some talk of reducing the size of the new complex to
save money. Some members sold second homes and other investments to
raise their pledge for the new building. More than $300,000 in loans had
been arranged with Gastonia financial institutions, but only $50,000 was
actually borrowed, and it was soon repaid.
One contribution came from an unlikely source. Marshall Rauch, a
prominent businessman and political leader in Gastonia — and a member
of Temple Emmanuel — later said that he had decided to give to the con-
struction of the new church in honor of Lewis "Brud" Gamp, a Queens,
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH
I * »
Girl Scout cookie sale, 1957. Left to right: Louise Love, Mayor Leon
Schneider, Vanna Woods.
New York, architect and coach who had been a strong influence when
he was growing up in Woodmere, New York. Mr. Rauch accompanied
Gamp on a visit through the new church while it was under construction.
Rauch said later, "I made a rather large contribution in his honor not only
because he was a Presbyterian, but also because the Presbyterian Church
has been a good influence on the community."
When the time finally came to choose the design for the church build-
ing, the members of the Building Committee found themselves in a
dilemma. They wanted a beautiful structure, but not a carbon copy of
what they were leaving in the old building. Building Committee member
W. D. Lawson III put it this way: "We wanted a church that made people
say, 'My, isn't that a beautiful church?' We didn't want them to drive by
and not even notice the church, and we didn't want them to say, 'Would
you look at that monstrosity that the Presbyterians have built?'" (Lawson,
60 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
who was thirty-two years old then, is the only member of the Building
Committee living today.)
The committee members looked at many designs in person or in pho-
tographs. "About all we could visualize were the colonial churches," Law-
son said. "So Wagoner would come down from Philadelphia and bring
different designs, and we would say, 'That's too modern.' He would say,
'Well, what do you want?' And we never could come to any agreement
about what we wanted."
On a business trip to Lincoln County, Lawson noticed a church of a
striking design in the town of Newton-Conover. At the next meeting,
one with Wagoner present, Lawson told the other committee members
about it. Wagoner and all the committee members immediately drove up
to see it. "It had a roof that swooped up to the back called a hyperbolic
parabolic," Lawson said. "There was a person cleaning gutters; turned out
he was the minister. It was a Lutheran church. So we went inside, and I
said, 'Well, this is worshipful in here, even if on the outside it's strange
Extensive meetings between the architect and the Building Commit-
tee followed for fourteen months. Finally by October 1958, the committee
had decided upon the modern approach, but only after much discussion
and trepidation. Originally, the committee members thought they would
want a Gothic design, but rejected the idea after being told Gothic would
cost 25 to 30 percent more than Colonial or Early American. The indeci-
sion was still evident on July 31, 1958, in a letter from Wagoner to Falls. "If
the committee ultimately decided that 'Colonial' is the best answer, you
may rest assured that we will devote ourselves to the task at hand with the
Dr. Moffett himself visited Wagoner in his Philadelphia office to take
what he hoped was a final look at the design. Wagoner wrote to him
on October 6, saying, "I hope that we are now coming down the 'home
stretch.' But Falls replied in a letter the next day that the committee had
met with Dr. Moffett after his visit and that the committee wanted Wag-
oner to fix a few minor parts of the design before taking it to the congre-
gation for a vote. He enclosed a list of ten items and said, "Until we re-
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH 6l
The Committees for the Building Program
of First Presbyterian Church, Garrison Boulevard
D. R. LaFar Jr., chairman
M. R. Adams
John M. Akers
L. G. Alexander
Ralph A. Dickson
W. B. Garrison
Fred A. Ratchford
F. L. Smyre Jr., chairman,
Board of Deacons,
W. B. Garrison and Fred L.
Smyre Jr., cochairmen
John M. Akers
Joe L. Barnett
Dan S. LaFar
Charles I. Loftin
Ralph Falls, chairman
M. R. Adams
L. G. Alexander
W. D. Lawson III
Mrs. J. H. Matthews
Mrs. J. N. Summerell
Ralph S. Robinson, chairman
C. K. Torrence Sr.
Brice T. Dickson, chairman
Harry S. Cobb
Mrs. John C. Mason Jr.
L. Jerry Shive
Mrs. Fred L. Smyre Sr.
ceive material from you on these items, the committee's work is more or
less at a standstill."
By October 27, 1958, all the details had been worked out and the com-
mittee was ready to seek congregational approval. Wagoner cautioned in a
letter to the committee, "The idea of now going before the congregation
62 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Ralph A. Dickson, chairman
Mrs. J. N. Summerell, vice
Paul P. Kincaid
Dr. W. M. Patrick
Mrs. Walter Rhyne
Mrs. Ralph Robinson
W. D. Lawson III, chairman
M. R. Adams
Mrs. James Ormand
Mrs. T. L. Wilson
FELLOWSHIP AND SERVICE
W. R. Sparrow, chairman
Leon G. Alexander
Mrs. Margaret Beam
James E. Cashatt
Mrs. J. H. Matthews
Mrs. Hugh Query
Mrs. Ralph S. Robinson,
Mrs. Margaret Beam
A. Gilbert Bell, chairman
Mrs. W B. Garrison
Mrs. Paul Kincaid
for a simple yes or no concerning the general architecture seems good to
me. I do suggest, however, that before doing so you invite as many church
leaders and church groups as possible to view the work prior to the con-
The committee followed his advice. Wagoner came down to partici-
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH
pate in the gatherings. Dr. Moffett thanked him for his presence in a
February 3, 1959, letter and informed him: "The congregation meets next
Sunday and I am hopeful that everything will go well. I have understood
that opposition is being organized, but I have not been able to detect any
very effective movement as yet." Dr. Moffett's intuition proved accurate.
On February 9, 1959, the congregation voted by secret ballot 325 to 115 to
accept the design.
"I feel that Sunday was really a turning point in the life of this congre-
gation," Dr. Moffett wrote to Wagoner, "and we are eager to capitalize
on this feeling of harmony and unity by moving ahead as rapidly as we
Wagoner proceeded with drawing the plans in accordance with the
wishes of the Building Committee and noted in an October 19, 1959, let-
ter to Chairman Falls, "This may not be the best church which we have
ever designed, but at the moment, I think that it is."
Within a few months, R. H. Pinnix, a Methodist who lived two doors
down from D. R. LaFar, was selected as the general contractor, the City
of Gastonia annexed the property, and the ground breaking was sched-
uled for April 10, i960. When the church was finished, Pinnix gave a silver
communion service to celebrate the occasion. His granddaughter, Sandra
Garrison Hodges, her husband, and their triplets are present members.
Meanwhile, as construction proceeded, a myriad of problems surfaced,
not the least of which was that Wagoner reported that he had been given
an inaccurate survey of the property. "I believe Mr. Pinnix shares my
opinion that the surveyor should not have shown grades that he did not
survey," Wagoner said in an April 28, i960 letter to Falls. "This is the first
time in 35 years that we have ever had an erroneous survey of this charac-
ter. . . . If we had known the facts, we would not have designed this shape
building. I think we can work our way out of this, but it could have been
Dr. Moffett was intent on not only building a new church, but more
importantly considering an edifice that stirred the spirit of the church in
its congregation. He personally charged each committee with the chal-
lenge, and he led the meetings with devotions. As a result, the architec-
64 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Construction of steeple and cross, 1962.
Refurbishing of carillon bells, summer 2002.
ture of the church reflects the history of the Christian church and its te-
nets of faith. Dr. Moffett was a scholar of not only the Bible, but also
many other disciplines. He brought all of his talents — intellectual and
emotional — to the building of First Presbyterian's new home on Garrison
The various building committees labored long and seriously on each
decision affecting construction and worship. For instance, all doors are
wheelchair-accessible, and most are on one level to facilitate easy pedes-
trian and handicapped entrance and egress.
When Dr. Moffett began participating in the design process for the
new sanctuary, he said he wanted it to have a central pulpit. Another de-
tail was how to place the cross in the sanctuary, since Dr. Moffett had
asked for a design that would allow "preaching under the shadow of the
cross." The question was whether to suspend the cross or attach it to
the rear chancel wall. The Building Committee initially preferred attach-
ing it to the wall, but Wagoner recommended suspending it, so it be-
came part of the motif with the pulpit, rather than a separate concept that
would draw attention to it. Lighting on the cross designed to throw two
shadows, representing the two thieves who were crucified with Christ,
added to the powerful motif. The result was a magnificent surprise for the
The church files contain a letter dated September 5, 1961, from Wag-
oner to the artist LeRoy Setziel of Portland, Oregon, authorizing him to
proceed with creating the cross. At eleven feet tall and nine feet wide,
the cross was to be made of oak and hewn walnut, since Dr. Moffett had
specified that he wanted to preach under a hewn cross, not a shiny one.
Although the cross appears curved when viewed from the front, it is per-
fectly straight when seen from underneath.
In all, the new church facility contains seven crosses: inside the sanctu-
ary, inside the chapel, outside between the chapel and the fellowship hall,
two on the entrance to the sanctuary, one on the rear of the sanctuary,
and, of course, one on the steeple.
But in Wagoner's opinion the incorrect survey and the position of the
major cross in the sanctuary were minor problems compared to the sug-
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH 6j
Raising the steeple of our new church, August 16, 1961. Left to right: Dan S. LaFar,
D. R. LaFar, Dr. Harry Moffett, R. A. Dickson, W. B. Garrison, Margaret Moffett,
C. I. Loftin, R. L. Leviner, W. D. Lawson III, Eubank Taylor, Mrs. Woody Morris,
R. H. Pinnix, and Mrs. M. R. Adams.
gested placement and design of the organ, which he called "uninspiring."
Wagoner proposed placing the organ in the transepts flanking the chan-
cel, but the organ builder, Casavant Freres Limited of Quebec, argued
for placement in the rear gallery. On January 25, 1961, Wagoner wrote to
Falls that "all of us in our office are greatly disappointed with the design
which Casavant has submitted." After failing to reach what he considered
an acceptable compromise, an obviously exasperated Wagoner wrote Falls
on April 11, 1961, "Perhaps we might compare the situation to a beautiful
lady who weighs 300 pounds. No matter how skillful the dress designer,
he cannot really disguise the excess avoirdupois (of course, he can always
close his eyes and listen to her sing, if she has a good voice)."
Even as late as August 1961, the controversy was still alive. "We simply
A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
do not understand why Casavant has had to take our organ out of pro-
duction because of lack of information received from your firm," Build-
ing Committee member W. D. Lawson wrote to Wagoner on August n.
"Quite frankly, the committee feels that there has been a lack of coopera-
tion between you and Casavant. We do not know what has brought this
about as we have relied on you completely in all matters."
Wagoner replied on September 6, 1961.
Your letter indicating a "lack of cooperation" on the part of our
office was the "unkindest cut of all." I am quite sure that we are
not as smart as we ought to be, but I can certainly assure you that
we have made a sincere effort to be cooperative. . . . The basic
problem of the design of the organ, when it is exposed, is one which
I frankly did not realize in its fullest extent. Up until the time we
designed your church, the "design" of the organ was not a problem.
The exposed organs which we had heretofore done were not in very
prominent positions and their actual conception, from an aesthetic
standpoint, was not too important.
Slowly, all the problems were solved and construction proceeded to-
ward completion by December 1961, but Wagoner informed the church
on August 18, 1961, that the project cost was now more than $1 million
and that his fee would be 7.2 percent of the total building cost. More
changes and additions would push the final cost to $1.45 million and re-
quire a second phase of fund-raising, which included the funding of me-
morials in the form of dedication of parts of the church building and
grounds. A list of these memorials is included in the Memorial Book in
the Heritage Room. This book, given by Brice T Dickson, contains en-
dearing memorials written by family members to honor those loved ones
they remembered with gifts to the new church. It is well worth the read-
er's time to spend an hour enjoying this large, red-leather volume.
According to the 1961 First Church history by Charles F. Daniel, "The
church is designed and equipped to adequately care for a congregation of
2,000 or more and is erected to stand for centuries. It is a complete unit
and is not designed for additions or expansions; the idea being when
the facilities become cramped, the formation of new congregations will
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH 6<)
be an imperative need." The sanctuary itself was built to accommodate
860 — according to the fire code.
Spiritual influences were prominent in the new design. The scripture
verse carved into the baptismal font is taken from II Corinthians 5:17: "If
any man be in Christ he is a new creature." The verse carved in the lower
lectern is from Psalm 119:165: "Great peace have they which love Thy law."
On the pulpit, the carving is from John 8:12: "I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of
As construction proceeded on the new facility, the last service was held
in the old sanctuary on Marietta Street on October 8, 1961. In his final
sermon there, Dr. Moffett said,
The little congregation of 236 who came into these walls when
they were new, God has blessed them, their faith, their vision, and
their devotion. It has never been easy, has it, for those who are
really concerned about the Kingdom of God? As the church in the
community has grown, the need for a clearer and more courageous,
and a firmer and more dedicated witness to the Lord Jesus Christ
has increased. As a community of which we are a part continues to
grow, the need for Christian sacrifice and dedication on the part
of those of us whom God has so signally blessed will continue to
increase. So let these stones remind us that we who have taken the
name of God upon us, we who have fashioned for ourselves, with
His help, another beautiful house made of stone in which to worship
and serve Him, this promises us no ease. This calls us to dedication
and to service. May God grant in that spirit that we leave this place
and enter into another.
The first service on the new site was held on October 15, 1961, in the
fellowship hall, since the new sanctuary was not complete. Funerals, wed-
dings, and baptisms were held there while Dr. Moffett and First Church
members eagerly awaited the completion of the new sanctuary. That day
came on June 3, 1962, amid prayer and hymns. Wagoner spoke briefly,
saying, "This church . . . sprung from a different approach to church ar-
chitecture, prepared especially for you, and I hope that what we have done
70 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Aerial view of our new church on Garrison Boulevard, 1962.
together will have a lasting influence on Presbyterianism." He told mem-
bers of the Building Committee that the curving walls in the sanctuary
were made from marble chips that originally were to be used in the Air
Dr. Richard Peek, then director of music and organist at Covenant
AN ADVENTURE IN FAITH 71
Presbyterian of Charlotte, gave the dedicatory organ recital on Sunday,
October 7, 1962. The Casavant organ was given in memory of Mr. and
Mrs. Alfred Monroe Smyre and Mr. and Mrs. Fredrick Lewis Smyre Sr.
by their children and grandchildren.
A five-hundred-pound cornerstone was laid in the new building in spe-
cial services on June 10, 1962. It contained forty items detailing events of
the church and the community dating from the current time of the place-
ment back to 1895. Among the items were histories of the church, Gasto-
nia, and Gaston County; the 1961-1962 Women of the Church Yearbook;
maps of Gastonia, Gaston County, and North Carolina; and brochures
and statistical data of the area from the Chamber of Commerce.
The 1895 cornerstone was moved from the downtown church, and the
contents of its time capsule were noted and replaced in the capsule. It
was placed under the new tower and actually forgotten until found by
Tom Summer and construction workers in 2002 during renovation of the
Situated on a hill at the apex of Gastonia, 825 feet above sea level, the
dramatic sanctuary, with its 165-foot spire, blended easily with the shape
of the mountains to the west. Dr. Moffett had asked that the pastor's
study be designed to allow him to look at the mountains for inspiration.
Now the mountains are somewhat obscured by the growth of trees behind
Teach us again O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that godli-
ness with contentment is great gain, that except the Lord build
the house, they labor in vain who build it.
May our thankfulness for your mercies find expression in ser-
vice to others and in our dedication to you, our loving and living
Lord. To your glory. Amen.
— From a morning prayer by the Reverend Dr. Donald Mitchell,
interim pastor, 1995—1997
72 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
A PEACE THAT PASSES
/ will lift up mine eyes unto the bills. From whence cometh my
help? My help cometh from the Lord who made heaven and
earth . . . the Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming
in from this time forth and for evermore.
— Psalm 121 v i, 2, 8
Dr. Harry Moffett had no plan to visit the Belgian Congo in the
spring of i960, especially if he knew it would cause him to miss the
official ground breaking of the new church building in Gastonia on April
10 of that year.
But he felt he just could not say no when the Board of World Missions
of the entire Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) asked him
to be an official representative on an important trip to the African coun-
try. Dr. Moffett was chosen to attend a March 28, i960, meeting in the
Congo to formally turn over PCUS property to the newly created Con-
golese Presbyterian Church. This meeting would take place just before
the country attained its independence on June 30, i960. Dr. Moffett was
to accompany the Reverend Dr. C. Darby Fulton, the executive secre-
tary of the PCUS Board of World Missions. Dr. Fulton had been to the
Congo on several occasions and he knew the potential danger he and Dr.
Moffett would be facing.
Just a few months earlier, the Reverend J. Kemp Hobson, a Presby-
terian missionary who had visited First Church in Gastonia in 1956, had
been severely injured in the Congo when a rioter cut off his hands. He
had been flown to the United States for reattachment surgery. Hobson
had written to the First Church newsletter in Gastonia on December 20,
1959, "We thought Christian teaching was doing something to break down
the division in tribes. . . . The recent agitation and trouble has of course
done some harm, but it has done one thing for the Native Church that is
constructive. It has convinced Native leaders and Native Christians that
the missionaries cannot stay in this country forever, and that the Congo
church must eventually stand on its own feet." Presbyterian missionaries
had been in the country since 1890.
First Church of Gastonia had supported Hobson and other missionar-
ies in the Congo and other places for years, including Brazil, where Dr.
Henderlite's nephew, the Reverend Langdon Henderlite, was a mission-
ary. In Japan, the church had given assistance to the Reverend and Mrs. J.
A. McAlpine and in Korea to the Reverend and Mrs. George Brown and
the Reverend and Mrs. C. G. Durham, and in Taiwan, the Reverend and
Mrs. U. T. Tremble.
Dr. Moffett had been a member of the Board of World Missions since
1954 and had faithfully attended the board meetings in Nashville. So when
the board met on March 16, i960, it decided it would be "wise to have
a representative to accompany Dr. Fulton for so important a consulta-
tion," and the board asked that Dr. Moffett "be urged to go if the way be
clear." Dr. Fulton had received a letter from one of the missionaries in the
Congo warning him that the situation was "dangerous." Nevertheless, Dr.
Moffett agreed to accompany Dr. Fulton. He left on Monday, March 20,
by train for New York City to meet Dr. Fulton. From there they flew to
Manchester, England, then changed planes several times before arriving
in Africa on Friday, March 24.
Dr. Moffett let his congregation know of details about his trip in the
March 27, i960, issue of the church newsletter. "Because of the sudden-
ness of my appointment to go with Dr. Fulton to Africa, I have not been
able to see many of you," he wrote. "However, I know that the Women of
the Church are going to have prayer groups for our mission and a great
many of you have expressed your interest and concern. I want to thank
74 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Dr. Moffett and Dr. Fulton preparing to visit nine of the ten Congolese missions.
you very humbly for your prayers and support." He wrote that he would
try to keep the congregation informed but he did not know how effi-
cient the mail would be. "Although Dr. Fulton will bear the brunt of the
responsibility, it is a great privilege for me to share this experience with
him. I am very grateful to the Session and to the congregation for allow-
ing me to go. You will be much in my thoughts and prayers and I know I
will be in yours."
It turned out that Dr. Moffett was able to send only one letter back
home. In it he reported that he and Dr. Fulton had spent three hours
answering questions from the Congolese clerics on the operation of the
church mission. "One of our missionaries, John Davis, has a Piper Cub
A PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING
and starting Monday we are planning to visit every station (often), except
one, of our Mission. We will travel by air and car and be on the go con-
stantly for 8 days. There will be no time to write."
Dr. Moffett did more than travel and confer. He also delivered ser-
mons in English at two mission outposts, Tshimbi and Ndesha. In his
seventy-two-page journal of his trip into the Congo, Dr. Moffett admit-
ted to himself that he was very nervous. "I must confess that I am labor-
ing under a burden of anxiety at this point for I am to preach to a Congo-
lese congregation thru an interpreter on Sunday," he wrote. "I greatly fear
the loss of poise and clarity of thought and self confidence because of my
But after he had delivered the sermons, he wrote, "I have had a glori-
ous and unforgettable spiritual experience! My first Sunday worship with
a Congolese congregation lifted me up into God's presence in a wonder-
ful and memorable way. The power of Christ to break thru the barriers
of race, language, custom and the wide chasm of educational advantage
and cultural privilege and make us one in worship and faith will never be
In his journal, Dr. Moffett wrote about the beauty and vastness of Af-
rica and about the poverty and ignorance he found in the Congo. But af-
ter he met with and came to know some of the Congolese Christians, he
wrote that it was unspeakably and indescribably moving. "I shall never be
the same again," he wrote. "I feel as though deep subterranean caverns of
prejudice and fear that were established in my deep consciousness from
my birth have been penetrated with the light of Christ and will never
again be the dark breeding places of prejudice and latent hate or fear they
once were. I do not believe I'll ever be slave of race prejudice again nor
lose this freedom of the spirit that has possessed me — I pray God, I never
Within a few days in the country, Dr. Moffett was beginning to see
what its future would hold: "I cannot escape the pessimistic conclusion
that chaos, and, probably, violence will spread throughout the Congo af-
ter independence, if not before, and that we should give serious thought
to the safety of our missionaries and most especially the women and chil-
j6 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Dr. Moffett titled this photo from the Congo "Native Market."
dren." Dr. Moffett's observations proved correct. Violence continued to
plague the Congo even into the early twenty-first century.
It was not all work and hardship for Dr. Moffett on the trip. His mis-
sionary hosts took him fishing for tiger fish, which he described as "a
scaled fish of rich gold and black stripes with ferocious teeth." He caught
one of about five pounds and had his photograph taken with it (see color
insert). "It gave me the most terrific fight for its size of any fish I ever han-
dled. This fish is also delicious to eat," he wrote.
Dr. Moffett described his main mission — that of helping Dr. Fulton
negotiate handing over control to the Congolese — as being
conducted with considerable confusion and disorder and consisted
largely of interminable and repetitious "palaver." This is a great word
A PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING
in the Congo. "Palaver" is debate over a controversy or the solution of
a problem. The word describes a very elemental Congolese trait. One
never goes straight to a point. You approach it obliquely by a very
involved and circuitous route, trying always to bait your opponent.
When a decision is finally reached, if ever, then the Congolese
say "We have cut the palaver." ... It is a grave mistake to assume
that because the Congolese is primitive, limited educationally and
shabbily dressed living in a mud hut that he is stupid or slow. He is
far from it. These people have inherited a wisdom and astuteness
that is mysterious and utterly foreign to our ways but it is far from
foolish or weak. It is sharp, clever, and very difficult to cope with.
Dr. Moffett devotes several pages of his journal to a history lesson
of the Presbyterian missionary involvement in the Congo, beginning in
1891. Then he discusses the new arrangement that he and Dr. Fulton were
finally able to negotiate with the Congolese. Finally, he ends his journal
with a fascinating description of a trip with Dr. Fulton to visit the king
of the Belugas tribe of about 100,000 at his palace, really a collection of
thatched buildings, where he kept about three hundred wives. The Be-
lugas were considered talented artists and excelled in weaving colorful
thatch mats. "Before we left the King presented Darby a ceremonial knife
and me an old and intricate mat," Dr. Moffett wrote.
Dr. Fulton wrote in his diary during the trip with Dr. Moffett, "Sev-
eral missionaries expressed amazement that so many Africans could have
reverted so quickly to completely heathen customs and practices which
they had been thought to have outgrown and repudiated for good — tribal
war, occult practices, witchcraft, arson, poisoned arrows, poison cup, etc.
Even some Christians have returned to depravity. Most discouraging!"
Dr. Fulton had also visited First Church in the past to spread the word
about world missions.
Upon Dr. Moffett's return, he gave several lectures at the church and
to various civic clubs about his adventure. He showed slides that he had
taken of the natives and the countryside, but he never returned to the
Congo. Within a few weeks, Dr. Moffett was soon back in the routine
that he had grown to love. He changed the Wednesday night prayer ser-
78 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
vice to Wednesday prayer luncheons, which broadened the church's out-
reach program and opened the service to those outside First Church's
membership, particularly to businessmen who could walk from the then
thriving downtown area. He had found a good fit for himself with the
church and the community.
Although Dr. Moffett's schedule allowed for very little leisure time, he
joined the Gastonia Country Club and played golf. He enjoyed hunting
and fishing trips with some of his church members. On one of the fishing
trips to the Outer Banks, he was staying in a cabin belonging to Dr. Ben
Dawsey and Wilson Setzer, who were both members of the First United
Methodist Church of Gastonia. Dr. Moffett was being accompanied by
Dr. Gene Woody, Dr. Don Lackey, and Dr. W. W (Dub) Dickson. Dick-
son had just been elected a deacon. Dr. Moffett said to Dickson with mock
seriousness, "Let me refresh your memory about the duties of a deacon. It
means to be a servant and I want my coffee brought to me at five a.m."
Gentlemen of the church, 1965. Left to right: John R. Falls (back), Trigger Workman,
T. M. Mackorell, David Yarbrough, John Peden, B. E. Smith.
A PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING 79
Dr. Moffett often showed his sense of humor. Once he borrowed
church member Craig Watson's luxury Rolls Royce automobile to play a
trick on his friend, the Reverend Dr. Warner Hall, who was senior min-
ister of Covenant Presbyterian in Charlotte. Both had been to Scotland
on visits. He called Hall to ask him to go to lunch and told him he would
pick him up at noon in front of the Tate-Brown men's clothing store on
busy Tryon Street in downtown Charlotte. Dr. Moffett had timed his ar-
rival so the car would draw lots of attention from the lunchtime crowds.
When Dr. Moffett drove up in the Rolls, Hall was astounded. "Where
did you get this car?" he asked, and Dr. Moffett coolly replied, "My flock
has been good to me lately. What has yours done for you?"
Hall returned the favor once, stop-
ping by the First Church office in 1966
to report that the cross atop the steeple
had been bent. It indeed had been dam-
aged by wind or lightning. He jokingly
asked Dr. Moffett if the damage had
been done by a strong wind or by Dr.
Moffett's preaching and if the cross was
"hanging its head in shame or in loving
Dr. Moffett's congregation did give
him several new cars over the years. It
was the custom of the church not only
to show appreciation but to assure that
the minister had reliable transportation.
For many years, W B. Garrison solic-
ited individuals for money to buy the
cars. After so long a time, he turned this
task over to George Henry and Duke
Kimbrell. Henry said later that his big-
Cross on our steeple bent by 65-mph winds,
80 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
gest problem was not in collecting the money, but having some members
become upset because they were left out of the solicitation.
In earlier days, Elder Ralph Dickson Sr. collected money from the men
of the church between Sunday school and church services. They typically
stood and visited under the big oak trees on Marietta Street. Important
news was usually accompanied with the words, "It came from 'under the
With the passing of the old church building, another Gastonia tradi-
tion also disappeared, the ritual of the main-line churches downtown tim-
ing the ringing of their bells on Sunday morning just before nine o'clock.
A few minutes before the appointed hour, the bells would be rung first at
one church, followed by the others. The First Church bell was moved to
the new church location and today is the top bell of the carillon tolling
the hours each day.
Dr. Moffett was known for his work in the Gastonia community with
race relations and in the South. He was one of the few white Presbyterian
ministers who had taken part in one of the first historic series of lectures
for African-American pastors in May 1953 at Stillman College at Tusca-
loosa, Alabama. In the fall of 1963, Dr. Moffett was appointed by Mayor
Dan Gunter as the single white minister on the Human Relations Com-
mittee in Gastonia. First Church lay leader Bynum Carter also served on
As in other cities and towns across the South, racial unrest was threat-
ening to explode in Gastonia. The first sit-in had been held in Greensboro
in i960, and protest marches were being held in Charlotte, Durham, and
Raleigh. In Gastonia, after Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter from the Bir-
mingham jail was published in mid-April 1963, leaders of a group of about
fifty in Gastonia announced their intention to march to city hall to de-
mand desegregation of public facilities and the opening of job opportuni-
ties for black people in the city. In Gastonia, a few leading black minis-
ters called off a planned demonstration but presented the city with a list
of seven sectors deemed appropriate for prompt desegregation, including
taking down "white only" signs at public places. It was at this time that
A PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING 8l
Dr. Moffett was named to the Human Relations Committee as it strug-
gled with keeping the peace in the city. He distributed copies of King's
Birmingham letter to all members of the Ministerial Association.
In an interview with the Gastonia Gazette, Dr. Moffett said, "The ra-
cial problem has given Gastonia a stern test. Gastonia received a blackeye
during the infamous strike violence years ago (1929). I was living in Da-
vidson as a student then but remember that the city got a reputation of
being a rough place." The city now had the opportunity to work out its
racial problems in a calm and peaceful atmosphere, he said. "We can re-
store our good name and this in turn would be a foundation for building
up our city to its rightful place."
"I have faith in the church and when the chips are down and the crises
seem insurmountable, the church has always come through," Dr. Moffett
said. "It will come through again in the racial issue." Under Dr. Moffett
and Bynum Carter's leadership, the Session at First Church had passed
a resolution on September 9, 1963, to let it be known that the deacons
would seat any person of any race in any pew for worship services. It was
approved despite the objection of at least one member of Session.
Some of the black leaders considered Dr. Moffett "one of our best
friends in the civil rights struggle," according to the book Spindles and
Spires. The book, published in 1976, gave credit to Dr. Moffett for his
leadership in civil rights in Gastonia during the tense time in 1963. One
of the authors was Donald W. Shriver Jr. who had pastored the Linwood
Presbyterian Church in Gastonia from 1956 to 1959. He had left to earn
his Ph.D. at Harvard University, had taught religious studies for a few
years, and then had become president of Union Theological Seminary in
New York City. "We have observed . . . the leadership of certain white
ministers and laity in helping to shape agendas for decision-making in
the local white power structure," the authors of Spindles and Spires wrote,
"and one example of such a leader was the pastor of the affluent First Pres-
byterian Church, Dr. Harry M. Moffett."
A Gastonia businessman who was chairman of the Human Relations
Committee in 1963 said Dr. Moffett's leadership in integrating the YMCA,
movie theaters, and restaurants showed the way to other members of the
82 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
committee to take the same role. "It took courage, and the Reverend Dr.
Moffett led the way."
Shriver's book recounts that Dr. Moffett was asked by the Gaston
County Democratic Party to deliver a eulogy for John F. Kennedy after
Kennedy's assassination in November 1963. Dr. Moffett used the occasion
to address the leadership of the community about, among several sub-
jects, how Kennedy had fought for the
historically discriminated-against minority. Held in subtle bondage
to poverty, through limited educational and economic opportunity
and discriminatory laws, their plight is supported by a vast complex
of entrenched fears and privileges, of submerged guilt and open
hate, of deep frustrations and accepted prejudices. Here, in this con-
flict, the fundamental principles of our constitutional democratic
government are locked in a deadly struggle in which, not only our
national respect for law, order and justice but our influence and
leadership of the people and nations struggling for life and liberty in
our world are in serious jeopardy.
The book said Dr. Moffett's address "was a singularly rare, intellectually
complex, and politically sensitive view of the uses and abuses of dishar-
mony in human social affairs."
Dr. Moffett had shown his leadership in race relations early on. In a
January 17, i960, sermon, he said, "We who live in the South live in a vola-
tile situation out of which there must come some solution in the living to-
gether of the two races that make up this section of our country. What do
we want? Just nothing to happen? We dare not face it. We just hope and
pray that it will continue. We live in dread fear of rockets and hydrogen
bombs and all the things that can happen . . . (There is an) awakening in-
terest in religion but church is the most difficult place to change because
we want it to be like it was when we were children. But it must change. It
must bring a light into the world or face the darkness."
Dr. Moffett also was active in the Gastonia Rotary Club, and in ad-
dition to his membership on the Board of World Missions, he served on
the board of Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, where his friend
A PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING 83
Dr. James A. Jones was president. As a trustee at Union, Dr. Moffett was
leading one of the small discussion groups that trustees conducted with
students. One of the students said, "Dr. Moffett, I have heard that the
Presbyterian Church United States is controlled by a hierarchy of four or
five ministers. Is this true?" Dr. Moffett replied, "Absolutely, and you are
looking at one of them."
Although Dr. Moffett had told members of the pulpit committee that
he would stav seven or ei°;ht vears, leaders of the church had convinced
him to stav at least until the new church was fully funded. That finally
occurred in the spring of 1966, and the church was formally dedicated on
June 19 of that year. Dr. Moffett marked the occasion with a sermon titled
"A House Built with Hands." He recounted the history of the church and
said, "The dedication of this inspiring building, free of debt within seven
years' time, speaks for itself. Only the commitment, loyalty and unity of
a great congregation supporting their chosen leaders could have brought
about so outstanding an achievement so swiftly."
The hours required in the demanding job as senior minister eventu-
ally began to take their toll on Dr. Moffett. In March 1967, Fred Smyre
Jr., still chairman of the Steering Committee, recommended that the Ses-
sion grant Dr. Moffett an immediate ten-day leave of absence on advice
of Dr. Moffett's physician. Smyre also moved that Dr. Moffett's vacation
be extended from one month to seven weeks, including one week of study
leave, and that once each month Dr. Moffett be encouraged and allowed
to take three consecutive days off "completely away from his administra-
tive and pastoral duties." The Session approved each recommendation
unanimously. Despite the changes, Dr. Moffett continued a torrid pace,
and finally he tendered his resignation to the congregation on July 30,
1967, to be effective on August 29. He became senior minister of Preston
Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, although he would return
at least once every year for several years to take Outer Banks fishing trips
with his Gastonia buddies.
When Dr. Moffett died in February of 1983 at the age of seventy-two,
the Gastonia Gazette remembered him in an editorial as having pro-
vided "inspired leadership ... in troubled times." The editorial said, "Dr.
Moffett not only was an able and effective preacher (seldom did he use
84 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
notes), but he had a fine tuning for the needs of other people. He served
on the local human relations commission during some trying times and
was instrumental in helping to bridge the gap of misunderstanding that
appeared back then. . . . He served his church and his fellowman for 40
years, and he will be missed."
Dr. Moffett is remembered at First Church as an outstanding, dedi-
cated Christian leader. He kept the lay leaders working and achieving
the various tasks of building, financing, and moving this great church
with very little deep unrest. As a member recalled, "Dr. Moffett could
persuade you to do things you did not want to do and be happy about it
when you finished."
O God, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed
the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you
are God. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the
Not because we are wise or good do we call upon you, but be-
cause we faintly understand how little we know, and because one
thing we know far too well, that we are not pure enough to look
upon you. Come to us in our great unworthiness. Amen.
— From a prayer of intercession by the Reverend Mr. Frank
Mayes, associate pastor, ip8o—ip8p
A PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING 85
BROADENING THE VISION
But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and
thou art our potter and we are all the work of thy hand.
— Isaiah 64:8
If Dan LaFar Jr. had not been persistent, the Reverend James Gordon
Stuart may never have agreed to succeed Dr. Harry Moffett as senior
minister at Gastonia's First Presbyterian Church. After Dr. Moffett left,
LaFar was named to chair the new pulpit committee. In that capacity, he
asked the Reverend Jim Fogartie, pastor of Myers Park Presbyterian in
Charlotte, for the names of possible replacements. Fogartie recommended
Stuart. By coincidence, LaFar had heard Dr. Stuart preach a few years
earlier at Sardis Presbyterian in Charlotte, and he had been impressed.
Members of the pulpit committee traveled to Sardis to hear Stuart preach
several times and then invited him to deliver a sermon at First Church in
Gastonia before asking him to take the senior minister's post. But Stuart
turned down the offer, saying he had decided to stay at Sardis, where he
had been since 1962.
The committee pursued other candidates, but LaFar and another
search committee member, Landon Thompson, asked Fogartie for an-
other suggestion. Fogartie said to ask Dr. Stuart again. This time Stuart
accepted, and the congregation called him on November 10, 1968.
It proved to be a good fit. Dr. Stuart was to head First Church for
nineteen years before retiring in February 1988. During his tenure, he led
the church to a new level of ministry. This ministry included the election
of the first female elders and deacons, the inititation of the Covenant Vil-
lage project, the creation of the Presbyterian Endowment Trust (PET),
the establishment of the columbarium, improvement of the youth pro-
grams, and the introduction of new member-assimilation classes. In fact,
in 1979 he was able to use the establishment of Covenant Village as the
basis for his Doctor of Ministry thesis at McCormick Theological Semi-
nary in Chicago.
James Gordon Stuart was a Scot not only in name, but also in church
polity. He was an admired preacher who spoke from the pulpit with au-
thority and great Presbyterian style. Dr. Stuart was a self-described "team
builder." He ran the church administratively with successful associate
ministers serving with him. Ralph Bright, Frank Mayes, Pete Carruthers,
and Stephen Caddell brought new and successful programs to the church
Communicants Class, April 11, 1968. First row: Cathy Owen, Terry Forrest, Joe Get-
tys, Wynn Gibbs, Skip Berryman, Glen Harris, Ralph Dickson III. Standing: Connie
Dickson, Holly Williams, Ruth Reid, Dr. Ben Lacy, Rev. John Kimbirl, Nancy Zeig-
ler, Bruce Wilkie, Nancy Talley, John Templeton, Richard Williams, Bill Love.
88 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
The Stuart family, 1978. Sitting: Tyler, Mary Beth, Jim. Standing: Jeb, Liz, Leslie.
such as Intentional Christian Experience (ICE), Professional Counseling
Services, and additional Christian education programs. Dr. Stuart was
also a gifted moderator of Session. Often the Session minutes reflect a dif-
ference between his vision and the elders' caution, but Dr. Stuart, with
great aplomb, yielded to Session authority. That wisdom meant that deci-
sions were borne by the Session and the moderator and consequently were
trusted by the congregation. He knew that a team was a strong imple-
ment in church administration, and he was a master at building a fair and
approved one. Dr. Stuart thought the more people served on committees
and were involved in congregational life, the better for the church. It was
his wish not to control the church, but to guide it.
Stuart had a warm approachability that blended him with the congre-
gation and community rather than lifting him above it. He had an iden-
tity with his parishioners that presented him as compassionate and psy-
chologically sensitive. This quality allowed him to be the inspiration and
imagination behind Covenant Village.
BROADENING THE VISION
At the time he decided to accept the call to First Church, Dr. Stuart
was forty-four years old. He and his wife, Mary Beth, had four children —
a son, James Gordon (Jeb) Jr., and daughters Kathryn Elizabeth, Leslie
Anne, and Tyler Leigh. (Tyler Stuart Bullock, her husband, Dale, and
their three children are First Church members today.)
Dr. Stuart said he turned down the initial offer from First Church be-
cause he felt he had more to do at Sardis, a growing suburban church in
southeastern Charlotte. But when LaFar approached him a second time,
he reconsidered the needs of the Gastonia church and saw a place for his
style of ministry. He said the fact that First Church came back to him
proved the pulpit committee members knew what they wanted. Stuart
said, "It's just an exceptional church, and there may have been some Provi-
dence in all of this."
After visiting the first time in Gastonia, Stuart said he came away im-
pressed with the church facilities, congregation, and leadership. The lead-
ers knew how to manage, and they knew how to project and come up
with the bottom line. Stuart knew about the bottom line, because be-
fore he became a minister, he had been an accountant. After receiving
his bachelor's degree at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, he had
worked with his brother three years and planned to join him in busi-
ness as Stuart and Stuart, Certified Public Accountants. But his service
in World War II caused him to change his mind. "I was a navigator in
the war and I had seen death and destruction," Stuart said. "I saw a lot of
things that really bothered me and I began to see man's inhumanity to-
ward his fellow man." Stuart flew thirty missions on a B-17 bomber air-
plane with the Fifteenth Air Force, stationed in Italy.
After his discharge, Stuart returned to Mississippi but decided to make
a career change. "Politically, I just didn't like what I saw in Mississippi
and I wanted to see if I could help to heal humanity, so I went into the
ministry." He entered Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Geor-
gia, graduating in 1952. He then spent two years as assistant minister at
Peachtree Road Presbyterian in Atlanta. In 1954 Stuart entered a gradu-
ate program at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, where part
of his experience included pastoral counseling in a mental hospital. "I
90 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
learned much in the mental hospital in Newark, New Jersey, which aug-
mented my theological studies," Stuart said.
A lot of the times those people were there because they couldn't find
any support or reinforcement or any love elsewhere. I remember that
the psychiatrist I was working under said, "If you damned ministers
ever had any love in your church, you would reach down and support
people like this, and we wouldn't have to work with them." He said,
"Love is the only thing you talk about in the church, but I don't see
you operating consistently with it." I will never forget that.
Stuart left Princeton in 1955 to become pastor of the new St. Andrews
Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, leaving three years later
to return to Peachtree Presbyterian in Atlanta as associate minister. After
four years he was called to Sardis as senior minister.
Stuart said he felt called to First Church of Gastonia because he be-
lieved he was needed to launch programs that would complement the
beautiful, modern complex. "It was obvious Harry Moffett had done an
excellent job leading the congregation through the construction of the
church. The challenge that lay ahead was the development of programs to
utilize the new facility. This project was energizing to me," he said. Stuart
said he believed the church needed to develop a new mission statement to
guide the programs in their new buildings, and the membership seemed
inspired by the new project.
Along the way, Stuart said the church leadership instigated two ser-
vices, one in the chapel in addition to the regular service in the sanctuary,
to accommodate members who wanted flexible Sunday schedules. At first
the early chapel service was only in summer, but after three years, it was
extended for the entire year.
When Stuart accepted the call to Gastonia it was a time of upheaval in
America. Riots had erupted in several cities after the assassination of civil
rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Protests over the war in Vietnam
were spreading on college campuses. Gastonia was not the scene of any
major eruptions, but the city could not escape the influence of the ma-
BROADENING THE VISION 91
jor social changes. Fortunately, church and city leaders provided excellent
leadership through these unsettling times.
In his 1979 doctoral thesis, Stuart described the sociological setting
this way: "The general climate of the Church in the late 1960's, when the
writer accepted his call to the First Presbyterian Church of Gastonia, was
characterized by diversity, unrest, and struggle as to its understanding
of mission." He said such factors as the campus unrest over the Vietnam
War, the struggle as to the priority given to the church's involvement in
social action, the rise of the youth culture, and busing as a means of inte-
grating public schools were emotional issues being debated vigorously in
the various courts of the Presbyterian church.
Stuart said he found the youth department in need of resuscitation
when he took over in 1968, so he plunged right in — even playing volleyball
with the teenagers. Then in 1970 the Reverend Ralph Bright was called as
assistant minister, and he proved to be a popular youth leader until he left
in 1974 to go to a church in Elizabethtown, North Carolina.
The new-member assimilation classes began in 1969 to help prospec-
tive congregants learn about the church's history, programs, and Presby-
terian polity. Five consecutive sessions during Sunday school hours were
devoted to this very informative program. The sessions were designed to
help interested persons make informed decisions about membership in
First Church. (One joins through profession of faith, transfer of church
letter, or reaffirmation of faith.)
In August 1974, Stuart and the Session decided to have the congrega-
tion enter into a process called goal-setting. Stuart noted in his thesis,
"The unique aspect of goal-setting is that it affords joint ownership in the
building of the Mission and helps move people from individuality to cor-
porateness." Facilitated by Clem Lambert, executive presbyter of Con-
cord Presbytery, the congregation held several meetings to identify a set
of joint goals. To help bridge the generation gap that usually exists in any
church, Stuart called upon Rick Smyre to chair the goal-setting process.
A young elder, he was the great-grandson of Alfred Monroe Smyre, one of
the church's founders in 1882. "In 1974, we had the congregation come to-
gether with the deacons and elders in small groups," Smyre recalled. "We
had two weekends. The first weekend we had about 150 people and the
92 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Pete Carruthers and 1975 Communicants Class visit the Capitol and Representative
second weekend we had 400 people. You could see the dynamics because
word had gotten around that this was real."
Smyre said sixty-four different goals were identified, and he presented
the results to the Session. "We had a variety and a range of different types
of ideas that emerged from this dialogue," he said. Once the goals were
identified, votes from each participant were tabulated and weighted for
BROADENING THE VISION 93
priority. The congregation put increased emphasis on Christian educa-
tion. The final report showed that the number one choice was "to ex-
amine the needs and interests of the congregation in regard to curricu-
lum and to project courses pertinent to all age groups, such as Church
doctrine, and more Bible study." Number two was to establish training
to ensure properly qualified teachers. The third was to organize more
meaningful groupings of adult and youth classes. Fourth was to study in-
terest in added worship services, such as early Sunday informal family ser-
vice. Other priorities included adding activities for the total congregation
at family night suppers, initiating programs for single adults, improving
communications, and so on. "The Session learned it had to listen to the
congregation," Stuart said. "It changed the temperament of the church.
We had established goals that the congregation wanted us to meet. It was
Stuart felt the congregation must have ownership in the program. He
said then, "If the members do not feel ownership, it will not fly." He in-
volved many volunteers and committee members. He knew the Session
was the governing body in the church, and he wanted it to make the deci-
sions, even when he did not always agree.
Although a feasibility study for building a church retirement home
failed to make the top twenty goals, it attracted attention from Stuart and
other leaders. "The needs of the aged were not found among the highest
ranked goals," Stuart wrote in his thesis. "This was largely due to the nu-
merically few elderly involved in the process." The original group study-
ing the feasibility of Covenant Village consisted of Stuart, W. D. Lawson
III, W. W. Dickson, Craig Fielding, and Charles Massey.
But the fact that the congregation had been able to come together to
focus on various needs made a difference. "Covenant Village would not
have been created without the goal-setting process," Stuart said. The pro-
cess was slow going at first, Stuart wrote, primarily because the concept
was considered impossible to achieve and "passed over as an expensive al-
ternative to their [the elderly] present lifestyle or to a nursing home de-
signed to be the last stop before the mortician."
"We didn't have any kind of retirement facility in this county," said
W D. Lawson III, the first president of Covenant Village.
94 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
The feasibility study was financed by a bequest R. E. Caldwell made
to First Church in memory of his mother. The R. E. Caldwell Benevo-
lent Fund was named to honor Mr. Caldwell because of his original gift.
The residue helped establish the Benevolent Fund at Covenant Village af-
ter Covenant opened. Caldwell was a native Gastonian who worked most
of his adult life as controller for LaFar Industries, Inc. He is remembered
as a quiet, unassuming man, who was very exacting in his life. Caldwell
never married, and upon his death in 1977, $85,000, a major portion of
his estate, was left to the church. His instructions were that the Session
use the funds to memorialize the name of his mother, Cordelia Morrow
Caldwell. Today, visitors drive on Cordelia Caldwell Circle through the
grounds of Covenant Village, and they may view a memorial plaque to
her at the porte-cochere. After the Caldwell funds were secured for the
research, two years went by before a search was begun in April 1979 for a
professional consulting firm. David LaFar, president of the Covenant Vil-
lage board of directors for ten years, was also a key person in the develop-
ment of the Benevolent Fund, through his personal donations and the so-
licitation of gifts from others.
"The original concept was to be a Presbyterian Village sponsored by
the church," Lawson said. "But we realized there was not enough capi-
tal potential in our church to do what we wanted to do, plus we felt we
wanted it more community oriented. So with that, we approached eight
other churches of different denominations, Baptist, Lutheran, Method-
ist, Episcopal, and so on. We had nine different churches involved." In
addition to First Presbyterian of Gastonia, the churches were First Pres-
byterian of Belmont, First Presbyterian of Mount Holly, First Presbyte-
rian of Kings Mountain, First Baptist of Gastonia, First United Method-
ist of Gastonia, Holy Trinity Lutheran of Gastonia, St. Mark's Episcopal
of Gastonia, and First Presbyterian of Clover, South Carolina. The name
was changed from Presbyterian Village to Covenant Village because of
this widened involvement.
Lawson, one of the first people to get involved in the concept, said pros-
pects did not appear favorable. "People felt it was going to be very diffi-
cult to raise two and a half million dollars to get it going," he said. "That
was just going to cover the cost of the nursing care, but we were going to
BROADENING THE VISION 95
28, 1981. Dr. James
Stuart with W. D.
Residents Lydia Ra-
gan and Betty Kiser
visit in the Covenant
Village reception area.
sell the apartments — just apartments at that time, no cottages — plus [use]
loans we had from the banks." He said seven banks in Gaston County
agreed at that time to underwrite the loan. Banker Harold Sumner was
not a member of First Presbyterian Church at the time. However, he was
the banking representative who coordinated the loans for the project. He
later joined First Presbyterian Church.
"I was the first president of Covenant Village and tried to get at least
twelve people to be fundraising chairman but they wouldn't do it," Law-
son said. "So I told Jim Stuart I would step down as president. 'You be-
come president and I will become the fundraising chairman.'"
In June 1978, the project almost died, Stuart wrote in his thesis. A pre-
liminary survey of support among seventy-seven church members and
community leaders for a proposed campaign of $4 million showed dis-
appointing results. But the committee changed courses after that and
adopted a new financial approach, based upon one used by founders of a
retirement village in Fayetteville, North Carolina. That approach started
with potential residents of the retirement village paying a so-called found-
er's fee as they signed up. When about two-thirds of the rooms had been
committed, the balance of funds would be borrowed from banks and con-
struction would begin.
Lawson said the real key to the fundraising came when longtime
church member Duke Kimbrell, the chief executive officer of Parkdale
Mills, agreed to give $50,000 a year for five years. "That gave us incen-
tive and motivation to go ahead and raise the funds," Lawson said. First
Church member John Akers, chief executive officer of Akers Motor Lines,
also gave generously of his time and money for the project.
After looking at several possible sites in the county, the committee set-
tled on thirty-three acres on Robinwood Road owned by F. L. (Rick)
Smyre III. The price was $90,000, and the committee members agreed
to personally raise the purchase price, if it became necessary. "We wanted
to be located geographically where it would be not too far from shopping,
hospital, doctors, public places," Lawson said. "As it turned out, this lo-
cation was much more esthetically desirable because of the rolling nature
than if we had a plain flat piece of property on some commercial street."
Several problems about how to make the first payment of $12,000 on
BROADENING THE VISION 97
the Smyre property by January 1979 arose before the fledging corporation
became the surprise recipient of $30,000 from the estate of the late Freda
Goforth Spencer. She was the widow of Gray Spencer and aunt of mem-
ber Fay Spencer Bonsac, who died in July 2004, and great- aunt of Dr. Ar-
thur Spencer III and Lee Bonsac Matheny.
The committee members visited several existing retirement places.
"Our idea was if you ever moved into Covenant Village you would never
have to leave," Lawson said. "We wanted people to be comfortable and
never have to worry about being 'kicked out.' As a matter of fact, we have
a fund that in the event someone's finances are depleted, the fund takes
care of their monthly fee." Called the Benevolent Fund, it is administered
by the Covenant Village Board of Directors. More than $800,000 has
been bequeathed by estates, including those of First Church members
Margaret Rankin Beam, Rebecca Stowe McLean, Emma Anderson, Eliz-
abeth Matthews Welton, and Clara Baity Sparrow, who were Covenant
Stuart wrote in his thesis that he thought the concept finally succeeded
because, "They [older adults] realized that the church did care for them,
not as a special mission, but because they were people. The writer does
not believe that the retirement concept is designed as a replacement of the
integration of older adults into family life. He does, however, note that the
extended family is disintegrating rapidly, and he believes that the retire-
ment home offers day-to-day contact with persons of one's own age."
Covenant Village finally opened in August 1982, eight years after the
retirement village concept had surfaced from the goal-setting process. A
plaque at the entrance of Covenant Village incorporates the initial reason-
ing for the project.
In the beginning entrance fees ranged from $21,500 for a single-room
unit to $65,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. Cottages opened in 1989,
with initial entrance fees of $92,000. By 2004, 270 people lived in the 140
apartments and 42 cottages. Marketing for Covenant Village was han-
dled by a new company called Spectrum, under the leadership of David
Through it all, Dr. Stuart kept his sense of humor. Trip Stewart recalls
the day she was dusting erasers at the curb in front of the church office
98 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
The gate beside
house notes its
when Stuart happened to drive up. "I'm glad to see at least one Presbyte-
rian on her knees," Dr. Stuart quipped.
Another side benefit of the goal-setting process in 1974 was the upgrad-
ing of the youth programs at the church. "I spent a lot of time with the
young people at first," Dr. Stuart recalled. "Then Pete Carruthers was
called in September 1974 as associate minister for youth. He was right out
of Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, with a Doctor of Ministry
degree. He had a lot of ability. We really worked as a team and divided
up the responsibilities. He was more of an associate than just a youth
BROADENING THE VISION
Associate Pastor Pete Carruthers visiting Brice T. Dickson in the hospital.
Carruthers developed a senior high program called Intentional Chris-
tian Experience, or ICE, which included mission trips to remote settings
where the youth participated in repairing houses of impoverished fami-
lies. Their first trip was to Kentucky, where they met Mrs. Patsy Brat-
ton Turner, a home missionary in poor rural areas who was still active,
although considerably slowed, at age 102. She had been guest speaker for
the adult Sunday school classes at First Church in the 1940s. She spoke of
raising money to build much-needed churches and said, "I never asked
them for a penny, but I sure did evermore tell them what we were praying
Carruthers organized a youth car wash to help pay for the Kentucky
trip and others. He also started Children's Church, which evolved into to-
day's A Time for Young Disciples.
Three other areas flourished under Dr. Stuart's leadership: the Presby-
terian Endowment Trust (PET), and music and drama programs.
Longtime member John Akers first suggested what became PET in 1977
IOO A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
by collecting several available individual funds and establishing an endow-
ment for the church. The son of a Presbyterian minister, Akers started his
career as a teacher but became a trucking magnate, establishing Akers
Motor Lines with his brothers. He was a talented businessman and a vi-
sionary, gifts he shared with his church.
PET received its initial gift in 1980 after the church was named in the
will of A. B. O'Neal, a former member who had died in Pennsylvania. The
church newsletter reported in its June 5, 1980, edition, "Mr. O'Neal [had]
called to request the exact date of his baptism and church membership.
After considerable research his name was located on the record books of
1916 (recorded 64 years ago in Dr. Henderlite's handwriting). Impressed
Pete Carruthers leads a children's service, 1977.
BROADENING THE VISION
with the kind cooperation he received from Justus Cathey, and retain-
ing a warm spot in his heart for the church, Mr. O'Neal made the church
one of his beneficiaries." Justus Cathey was a beloved and efficient long-
time church secretary always remembered for her love of the church and
its people. She was never too busy to greet any who came in seeking an-
swers or assistance.
Although it had been established in 1977, PET became very active for
the first time in 1988 when Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Robinson Sr. moved to
Covenant Village and gave their home on New Hope Road to the church.
The house was sold at auction and the funds went to PET. John Akers
was an original member of the PET Funding Committee when it was
formed in 1988, along with committee chair Sally Robinson and members
Bynum Carter, Tom Efird, Kerry Jarman, Gene Matthews, Pat Morrow,
Martha Taylor, and Bob Wren. Other major contributions to PET over
the next ten years were from the estates of Margaret Rankin Beam, Frank
W. Davis, Wayne Howe, Carroll Harmon, and James Henry.
By the end of 2003, the Presbyterian Endowment Trust had distributed
a total of $2,624,747. None of the PET funds can be used for annual op-
erating expenses. Several funds come under the PET umbrella, including
the Frank Davis Children's Fund; the Groves Fund, which is designated
for Crisis Assistance Ministry; the Pearl Wilson Fund for Missions; and
the Torrence Fund, which has paid for church projects such as the sanctu-
ary sound system, the courtyard landscaping, handbells, liturgical para-
ments, and special benevolent causes. The Presbyterian Weekday School
Endowment Fund is also administered by PET. It was established by Bev-
erly Stowe from memorials for the Reverend Joe Stowe. The largest dis-
bursement from the trust came in 2000, when it contributed $300,000
to the largely African-American congregation's Third Street Presbyterian
Church Building Fund.
PET also contributed $50,000 toward the initial funding of Southmin-
ster Presbyterian Church, organized by the Presbytery of Western North
Carolina. First Church helped survey potential members and provided
office space for the minister, the Reverend Jerry Bron. It opened in 1994
with 203 charter members and their children. By 2004 it had 384 mem-
bers. Several First Church members helped provide a nucleus of charter
I02 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
The Presbyterian Trotters at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.
members, including Blanche and Charles Wetzell, Susan and John How-
ren, Laura and Robbie Lineberger, Dwayne and Sarah Fink, Becky and
Dave Maxon, Ann Neal, and Pat Sudderth.
Dr. Stuart also encouraged the church in other areas. First Church's
drama offerings were unique in the city. "We started a drama depart-
ment back in the 1970s," said former longtime member Charlie Wetzell,
who was interviewed for this book before he died in 2003. "We thought it
would be a good way to impart the Christian message."
Wetzell and the late Gunnar Nielsen were the initiators. The first
drama was Noah, performed in 1971, in which the children dressed up as
animals. "It was a little unusual in a Presbyterian church to have drama,
instead of a Christmas pageant," Wetzell recalled. Nielsen directed The
Prophet and the Carpenter in 1972, and it was reprised at Montreat. In
1973, the troupe at First Church produced Adam and Eve. The committee
staged The Sound of Music in March 1985, attracting audiences of 1,100.
Garland Atkins assisted Nielsen as musical director.
Other productions included a dinner theater in July 1985, Amahl and
BROADENING THE VISION
the Night Visitors in January 1986, A Nite of Comedy in September 1986,
and Jesus of Nazareth in January 1987. There were others, many directed by
There were some humorous moments during Dr. Stuart's ministry at
First Church. Members recalled live nativity scenes, including one where
the youth choir members were dressed as angels and looked down from
the roof. At a later nativity scene when one Mary was substituted for an-
other, a little boy, Jim Henry, blurted out, "You're going to have a baby,
In addition to the efforts by PET, the church also provided rent-free
office space from 1990 to 1998 for another organization, The Carrie E.
and Lena V. Glenn Foundation, which had been established in 1971 by the
two sisters who had joined First Church in 1906. The trustees of the foun-
dation had been meeting at the church since 1974 and paid a member of
the church staff to provide clerical support. The foundation started with
$25,000, and at the death of the last surviving sister in 1986, $2.9 million
was added. In 2004, the foundation had assets of about $7.6 million and
had given away a total of $4.3 million in 524 grants with special emphasis
on education, medical care, and religious and social concerns.
Dr. Stuart was at the helm in 1982 when First Church observed its
centennial. A series of celebratory events were scheduled throughout the
year. That October, a special hymn festival and services featured a home-
coming for Dr. Irving M. Ellis and Dr. Harry Moffett and addresses by
Dr. Ernest Campbell, Dr. William Oglesby Jr., and Dr. David H. Burr.
Campbell was the former pastor of Riverside Church in New York City
and a frequent speaker on national programs. Oglesby was an endowed
professor at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, and Burr was
pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem.
Former First Church music director and organist John Hebblethwaite,
who served here from 1969 to 1977, returned to introduce "God of All
Time," a hymn he had written to commemorate the church's centennial.
The Women of the Church published a centennial cookbook, One Hun-
dred Years of Cooking, compiling old and new recipes and featuring unique
illustrations by artist Teresa Myers.
On the last Sunday of the centennial celebration, the 1962 cornerstone
IO4 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
was opened and additional memorabilia, describing the church's 1982
work and witness, was displayed in the Session room and inserted in the
time capsule. Then the cornerstone was replaced for future generations to
Also in 1982, the church underwent another round of goal-setting, this
time focusing on inner-church activity. Rick Smyre was called upon again
to lead the effort. Coming out of this session, the main goals were a re-
emphasis on the Bible and on religious instruction. Prayer groups were
emphasized, and Stuff and Study, a Wednesday night educational and fel-
lowship opportunity, was offered. Expanded adult education classes for
Sunday morning church school were added. Worship flourished.
Dr. Stuart was still First Church's senior pastor in 1983 when the Gen-
eral Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCUS) and the United Pres-
byterian Church (UPCUSA) met in joint session at Atlanta, Georgia. The
commissioners voted to reunite the two bodies, which had been sepa-
rated in the 1800s, and form the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUS A).
Kitty Mackie was a commissioner elected by Presbytery to this General
In 1985, a $1.4 million Heritage Fund campaign to refurbish, repair,
and redecorate the church building, including new paint and carpet in
the sanctuary, was completed. William H. Keith led the successful cam-
paign with assistance from a professional fundraiser, Paul Kersher. Linda
Dixon served as secretary and William C. Ratchford as treasurer. After
the campaign was over, Dixon accepted the position of church secretary
and served most capably for fourteen years.
Three members who became very involved during this era in First Pres-
byterian's growth and activities were Mr. Harry Cobb, Mr. C. E. "Doc"
Center, and Mr. Henry Cabaniss. They were immense stewards of the
church plant, personally repairing plumbing, renovating rooms, and engi-
neering projects for drama and church-school needs. Henry's wife, Doro-
thy (also a faithful member), now resides at Covenant Village. Such men
and personal involvement marked the administrations of our ministers.
Dr. Stuart announced his retirement in December 1987, to be effective
February 1988, after nineteen years at First Church. During sabbaticals,
the church provided the means for the Stuarts to travel to Scotland, Italy,
BROADENING THE VISION IO5
The 1984 Heritage Fund campaign. Left to right: James B. Call, Duke Kimbrell, Wil-
liam C. Ratchford, Mrs. H. S. Mackie, David Cline, Mrs. Fred S. Lytle, Douglas
Crisp, Frank Matthews, Bynum Carter, Ralph Robinson Jr., Robert E. Sumner III,
and general chairman William H. Keith at the pulpit.
the Middle East, and other parts of Europe, and on his retirement, the
church honored him with a generous cash gift. Later the Session named
him pastor emeritus after he and his wife retired to Blowing Rock.
Make of your church both a redemptive proclamation of God's
good neivs in Christ and a courageous champion of justice amid
the unjust structures of our present world. Above all, give your
church ears to hear and hearts to respond to "the still, sad music
of humanity. "Keep her aware of human hurt and despair and
guide her to be faithful to her trust and to your missions. In Jesus'
— From a prayer of the people, by the Reverend Dr. Douglas
Aldrich, interim pastor of congregational care, 2002—200$
IO6 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
WOMEN OF THE CHURCH
/ have counsel and sound wisdom, I have insight, I have
— Proverbs 8:14
"V~W~7bmen have always had a major impact on significant decisions
W at First Church. In 1884 the Ladies' Aid Society was formed with
Sarah Lewis Smyre, wife of founding elder Alfred Monroe Smyre, as pres-
ident. In 1887, the name was changed to the Ladies' Home and Foreign
Mission Society. By that time it was under the leadership of Susan Rhyne
Love, the wife of another founder, R. C. G. Love. The society assisted the
Men's Missionary Society, which was organized in 1889 for the support of
the Reverend T. R. Sampson, missionary to Greece. By 1905, the name of
the women's organization had been changed to the Ladies Missionary So-
ciety with Lela Shuford Reid, the wife of a prominent physician, as presi-
dent. In 1920, the society adopted the circle plan and became the Women's
Auxiliary of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. The name was
changed to Women of the Church (WOC) in 1948 and to Presbyterian
Women (PW) in 1983.
"The fact is that women were always every bit as influential in reli-
gious affairs and causes as the men, except perhaps in primary financial
matters," said Robert Ragan, former longtime First Church member
and Gaston County historian. "Their usefulness was mostly behind the
scenes, but very effective, and their voices were heard individually and
collectively one way or another in higher council chambers. Their cru-
sades, and there were many, were usually all-out, and the elders, deacons
and ministers wisely listened and acted on their behalf."
During the first half-century in the church's history, the names of sev-
eral women stand out among those blessed saints who were far ahead of
their time and made a considerable difference in setting the tone for the
religious affairs of the church and the advancement of the community.
They were founders and exponents of the Gastonia Woman's Betterment
Association, Woman's Auxiliary of the church, foreign mission work, out-
reach programs, the Sunday school department, Barium Springs Orphan-
age, Crossnore School, and the Kings Mountain Presbyterial. Under Dr.
Henderlite and the Reverend Mr. Ellis, women began to become mem-
bers and even chairpersons of important committees and heads of depart-
ments that previously had been the domain of the men.
Sue Gallant Robinson, wife of S. A. Robinson, was one of the early
leaders. She joined the church in 1893 at the age of fifteen and served
faithfully until her death in i960. She was president of the Women of
the Church, recording secretary of the North Carolina Synodical in 1918-
1921, and president of the Kings Mountain Presbyterial in the 1940s. "Miss
Sue," as she was known, was also active in the work at Montreat. Her
summer home, Camp Gallant, was open to members of First Church for
Over the years, the Women of the Church provided essential sup-
port for the minister, the Session, and the Diaconate by calling on all be-
reaved members, visitors, and new members. The annual reports provide
not only copious detail of the activity of the various women's circles, but
also a record of most of the major news of each year. Today Presbyte-
rian Women continue congregational care by providing meals to bereaved
families and prayer books to families with new babies.
The women also regularly honor their own through memorials and
honorary life memberships. An example of the loving care in memorials
can be seen in the WOC yearbook collection:
On May 23, 1945, there passed from this earthly tabernacle the soul
of Mrs. Hubert Ramseur, to enter into her heavenly tabernacle not
IO8 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
made with hands. Her heart was full of loving kindness, and her
hands of tender ministry. She was ever faithful in the performance
of her duty to her friends, her family and her church. . . . She was
loved, honored and esteemed by all who knew her. Like her Savior
she was constantly going about doing good. Truly it can be said,
"she fought a good fight, she kept the faith, she finished her course."
And for her it laid up a crown of righteousness that the Righteous
Judge will give her in that day.
The language in the certificates of Honorary Life Memberships was
just as carefully chosen. One presented in May 1953 began,
It is with appreciation and deep regard that this Life Membership is
presented to Annie L. P. (Mrs. G. V.) Patterson who has served her
Master well through many years in innumerable ways throughout
our whole church. . . . She is now Pastor's Aide and brings to our
pastor able and ready help in any phase of the work of the women of
the church. She attended the first Leadership Training School held
in Montreat 41 years ago and has not missed a Training School since
The certificate then lists Mrs. Patterson's many posts held in the church,
Presbyterial, and various Presbyterian charities. "She visits the sick, and
those in trouble, prays with them and for them, always with the great de-
sire of keeping alive the spiritual life of the church." (A list of all ladies
who have received life memberships is in the appendix. Today Life Mem-
berships are presented at the annual Presbyterian Women birthday cele-
bration in May.)
First Church became involved in missions during the early ministry of
the Reverend W. E. Mcllwaine. The Ladies' Home and Foreign Mission-
ary Society was organized on February 4, 1889. The funds collected were
expended in the interest of home and foreign missions.
By 1891, the adult men and women were well organized for effective
and progressive work, but no effort had been made to organize the chil-
dren for their training in Christian study and activity. Very early in the
Reverend C. W. Robinson's pastorate, a Children's Missionary Society
WOMEN OF THE CHURCH IO9
Our Bloodmobile ladies: Jo Garland, Mary Ann Patrick, Betty Love.
was organized with Miss Lizzie Adams as lady manager. From this soci-
ety grew the three successful organizations of young people — the Band
of Hope, the Willing Workers, and the Westminster League. This is be-
lieved to be the foundation for today's organization of elementary, mid-
high, and senior high divisions of church school and youth fellowships. A
plaque honoring Miss Lizzie Adams is in the Heritage Room.
The WOC also supported many important causes with particular em-
phasis on missions in Japan, Korea, Brazil, and the Congo. Major contri-
butions were made in the 1950s to the Reverend and Mrs. George Thomp-
son Brown. After the Reverend Ellis resigned in 1950, the Reverend Brown
served as interim pastor in 1951 and 1952 for First Church, as well as Ad-
ams Memorial and Linwood Churches and Piedmont Chapel. (Brown
later became head of the General Assembly Missions Board. The Browns'
daughter, Mary Brown Bullock, has been president of Agnes Scott Col-
lege since 1990.) Phil Dunford, a student at Columbia Seminary, assisted
the Reverend Brown.
The women also collected special offerings to build furlough homes
for missionaries in Richmond, Atlanta, Louisville, and Austin. A church
IIO A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Dr. John Shaw, medical missionary, and Dr. George Miller in Korea, 1977.
in Japan was built with proceeds from the sale of beautiful Japanese paper
napkins. First Church's beloved church secretary, Miss Bess Jackson, pro-
moted the sales. The Reverend and Mrs. James McAlpine, missionaries
in Japan, made regular shipments to the church and the lovely packaged
napkins were sold quickly. They were frequently used by circle hostesses
during refreshment time.
Also during the 1950s, First Church sponsored missionaries Dr. Lang-
don Henderlite in Brazil, the Reverend and Mrs. James McAlpine in Ja-
pan, the Reverend and Mrs. Vernon S. Anderson in Africa, and Miss
Clara Fisch in Africa. Occasionally, some of the missionaries would visit
First Church just as the Andersons did in August 1953, according to the
First Church member Helene Keyzer became acquainted with Clar-
ence and Ruth Durham when she lived in the same town in Soon Chun,
South Korea, during the 1970s. The church also sponsored orthopedic
surgeon Dr. John Shaw and his wife Sharon, who worked with physically
WOMEN OF THE CHURCH
handicapped children in Jeonju, Korea, during the 1970s. Shaw had been
a resident at the Orthopedic Hospital in Gastonia under First Church
member Dr. George Miller, who specialized in treating polio victims. Dr.
and Mrs. Shaw joined First Church and even taught Sunday school. They
became interested in serving as medical missionaries and were assigned to
a crippled-children's hospital and orphanage in Jeonju. Dr. Miller and his
wife Judy, an occupational therapist, corresponded with the Shaws, and
when Dr. Miller scheduled a trip to a medical meeting in Hong Kong,
they decided to pay a six-day visit to the Shaws in October and November
1977 at Jeonju, 120 miles south of Seoul.
"John was associated with the Jesus Hospital in Jeonju, a Presbyterian
hospital, which our church helped to raise money to modernize back in
the sixties," Judy Miller recalled. Sharon worked as an occupational thera-
pist with the children. They had their two children, Laurie and Michael.
"We were able to witness firsthand the work that John and Sharon were
doing in the area and see the type of patients John treated. Many of them
had the type of polio that had been seen in this country thirty years ear-
lier. So George was able to bring new techniques to John."
The Millers brought back a list of
badly needed supplies that members of
First Church sent to the Shaws for several
years until medical missionaries were
no longer needed in Korea. The Shaws
now reside in Louisville, Kentucky.
The church also assisted other phy-
sicians and dentists from the congrega-
tion. Dr. Bob Blake, Dr. Ellis Fisher,
and Dr. Bill Kelly went on medical
missions, many to Haiti. First Church
member Dr. Blake has made several trips
to Haiti to establish and help operate
Hopital Lumiere, the Hospital of Light,
using medical equipment and supplies
r» n u ni r u • ■ j from the old Garrison General Hospi-
Dr. bob blake, teacher, missionary, and r
old car enthusiast. tal, which closed in 1976. First Church
112 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Busy in the sewing room. Seated: Nancy Hunter, Bennie Peden, Burkie White, Louise
Cathey. Standing: Becky McLean, Phyllis Tucker, Susie Mason, Fannie McLemore.
has contributed regularly to the missionary work at Hopital Lumiere. For-
eign Mission work at First Presbyterian always was a strong response to
the scripture "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel."
In 1957, the Women of the Church sponsored the Community Kinder-
garten to serve a portion of Gastonia's black community with Miss Myr-
tle Hoffman as the teacher.
In 1961, the members of Women of the Church cleaned furniture from
the old church before it was moved to the new building. In 1969, Lou-
ise Drake organized a permanent sewing room, opened in the church
to help with the Church World Service Clothing appeal. The room has
been open every Wednesday since then, except in summer months, and
the women meet to roll bandages, mend clothing, make gifts, and, at the
same time, have a marvelous morning of fellowship. Thousands of receiv-
ing blankets with hand-crocheted edges and gowns with colored bindings
have resulted, in addition to bandages and layettes.
Dr. Stuart was still at the helm at First Church when the church wel-
WOMEN OF THE CHURCH
corned its first female elder in March 1969, although the constitution of
the Presbyterian Church United States had been amended in 1964 to al-
low women to serve as elders and deacons. Margaret Vaughn Summer-
ell had been president of the Women of the Church in 1954-1955 and had
held virtually every other office of any importance in the sixteen years
she had been a member. Her husband, J. N. Summerell, had helped orga-
nize the Presbyterian Church in Cramerton before moving to Gastonia
in 1953. Mrs. Summerell was elected by the congregation on January 26,
1969, and took her place as an elder at her first Session meeting in March
of that year to begin a six-year term. The slim, attractive, retired elemen-
tary school teacher was the only woman among the ten new elders and
twelve new deacons. Later, Mrs. S. James Brown and Miss Jean Marie
Eunice Warren Bible Class, Christmas 1969
114 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Margaret Summerell, elected in 1969 as
the first woman elder in our church.
Jean Marie Torrence, elected with Vir-
ginia Brown in 1972 as the first women
deacons of the church.
Torrence were the first two women to be elected to the Board of Deacons
Dr. Stuart encouraged the election of women to high posts. "It was
a controversy, but when you have people like Jim Call at Firestone and
Leon Alexander out at Wix and people like Ralph Robinson, Frank Mat-
thews, Bynum Carter, and Duke Kimbrell, these are people who really
are on the cutting edge," Stuart recalled. "They knew that women had
a lot to offer. I remember the first [female] elder. She knew how to get
things done and could stand up intellectually with the men."
Mrs. Summerell had been nominated by member Helen Marvin, who
had been elected to the nominating committee for new elders and dea-
cons by the congregation. Marvin later became elected to the North Caro-
lina Senate. "I commented that I thought we ought to nominate more
women and the committee agreed," Marvin recalled. "When I saw the list
they had only one. The answer I got was that the women had said, 'Oh,
no you don't want me. Are you sure you don't want my husband?' The
majority of the women we had suggested refused to be involved."
In 1971, the WOC adopted a program of community and world service
WOMEN OF THE CHURCH
Crisis Assistance Ministry.
that involved raising money to meet short-
term emergency needs of people in the
community and taking lunches to shut-ins.
In 1972, the WOC members started par-
ticipating in the Meals on Wheels program
to provide hot meals to the elderly, with
member Judy Miller leading the way.
In 1972, the WOC became involved in
the Cooperative Christian Ministry, which
was formed by Gastonia churches to meet
emergency needs. The Gastonia Gazette ac-
knowledged the church's participation in
a story about the program. Initially volun-
teers worked out of First Presbyterian Church, handling cases referred to
them by the Information and Referral Services of Gaston County, Inc.
The name of the Cooperative Christian Ministry was changed in 1976 to
Crisis Assistance Ministry for Christians and Jews of Greater Gastonia,
Inc. In 1980, Marion Mayes, wife of associate minister the Reverend Frank
Mayes, became its executive director. It is still very active today, sup-
ported by First Church, other area churches, and the local synagogue.
In 1982, as a part of the centennial celebration, the WOC published
its first cookbook, One Hundred Years of Cooking, which included a brief
summary of the church history. Mrs. Glen (Lila) King, president of the
WOC, appointed a capable committee to publish the cookbook. It in-
cluded favorite recipes of church members. Back then, meal gatherings
were social occasions of the community as well as the congregation.
Presbyterian Weekday School teachers shared their children-tested rec-
ipes, including the one for Stone Soup, excerpted as follows:
Stone Soup is more than a "recipe" for the pre-school child. It is an
introduction to the importance of sharing. They realize that often
in life we need each other, and they receive a warm feeling from this
realization. You read the book Stone Soup by Marcia Brown to them
first and discuss it. They also love to act it out and then you ask
the question, "Would you like to make Stone Soup in our room?"
Il6 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
They will always eagerly answer, "Yes!" As each child tells you what
they would like to bring to add to the soup, you feel such a glow
of sharing and working together. The next day when you prepare
the soup it is a real joy to watch eighteen busy little four year olds
scraping carrots, cutting potatoes and onions with dull table knives,
browning the hamburger, under the watchful eye of their teacher,
finally putting the top on and waiting for it to cook. When it is time
to dine, I have never seen a child that did not eat their share with
The recipe: 3 stones, 1 pound ground beef, 1 large can V-8 juice, 6
carrots, 2 onions, 1/4 head cabbage, 2 stalks celery, salt and pepper,
1/2 cup water. Place the three clean stones in an electric frying pan.
We usually have two frying pans going at the same time. Brown the
beef, add the V-8 juice, add the vegetables that have been peeled and
cut in small pieces by the children. Add salt and pepper and water
and simmer covered for one hour. Remove the stones before serving.
Children enjoy having saltine crackers with their wonderful Stone
Submitted by Mrs. Philip R. Williams (Betty Ruth)
In 1995, the WOC published another edition, called Dinner Chimes.
It was a wonderful success. The committee included Rose Forrest, Meg
Fisher, Emalee DeBevoise, and Barbara Jones. Talented life member of the
church Mrs. W R. Kelly Jr. (Annabelle) drew the sketches for the charm-
ing publication. Mrs. Tom Efird (Anne) served as president of the WOC.
Mrs. Gunnar Nielsen (Lisbet) kept the inventory of the cookbooks, and
Mrs. Alec Hall (Ginny) was the marketing chair.
The second and third female elders in First Church were Macie Or-
mand and Kitty Mackie, elected in 1971 to serve six-year terms on the
Session. Ormand had joined the church in 1934 and started playing the pi-
ano for various functions two years later. She was a member of the chan-
cel choir for more than forty years. "Everything I have done in this church
I have enjoyed," she said in late 2003, at the age of ninety-two. Ormond
now lives at Covenant Village.
Katherine (Kitty) McChesney had come to Gastonia as director of re-
WOMEN OF THE CHURCH II7
The Women of the Church has always been the extended hand
of hospitality to the congregation. This is true at times of cele-
bration. Traditionally, Women of the Church welcome new staff
and ministers with encouragement and usually meals. Below is a
recipe used on several occasions to fete new members and those
serving as interim pastors.
CRAB SHRIMP CASSEROLE
Served to welcome minister s family at Sunday lunch given
i cup chopped celery Salt and pepper to taste
i green pepper, chopped Dash of Worcestershire
i medium onion, chopped sauce
6 tablespoons butter Vi pound boiled fresh
2 tablespoons all-purpose i (8-ounce) package frozen
flour white crab, thawed and
i cup milk rinsed
i can cream-of-mushroom i cup cooked wild rice
soup i cup cooked white rice
i cup grated sharp cheese
Saute celery, onion, and pepper in 4 tablespoons of the but-
ter. In saucepan melt rest of butter; add flour gradually and
stir until smooth, adding milk a little at a time, and heat until
thickened. Stir constantly. Add soup, cheese, salt, pepper,
and Worcestershire sauce. Mix with sauteed vegetables. Com-
bine this mixture with crab, shrimp, and rice. Pour into
greased round 2-quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for
Submitted by Mary Ann Aycock
ligious education (DRE) under the Reverend Ellis. "We welcome to our
church and community Miss Katherine McChesney, who has come to be
our DRE," the November i, 1941, edition of the church newsletter an-
nounced. Obviously she went to work efficiently and immediately, pro-
ducing a Christmas program in six weeks. The December 20, 1942, news-
letter read, "Our Christmas pageant, written and directed by our DRE,
will be given tonight at our regular service hour."
After her marriage to H. S. Mackie in 1944, Kitty continued as DRE
until 1945, when she was succeeded by Mary Olive Walker. Kitty remained
active in the Women of the Church and was awarded a life membership.
Her husband died in 1970. In 1975, Dr. Stuart asked her to volunteer as
manpower secretary, a position Lisbet Nielsen had held the previous five
years. Mackie served the church in this capacity until 1987. She repre-
sented her church when Presbytery elected her a commissioner to the
The Seekers Bible Class, established in 1992.
WOMEN OF THE CHURCH II9
General Assembly in 1973 and in 1983. Kitty Mackie served as chairman of
Presbytery's Coordinating Council and vice chairman of Synod's Coun-
cil. She made history when she was elected the first female moderator of
the Presbytery of Concord in 1975. She resides at Covenant Village, is ac-
tive in Presbyterian Church affairs, and remains a wise and guiding coun-
sel. Her son, Spurgeon Mackie, his wife Margaret, and their three daugh-
ters are members of First Church.
Elders Sarah Abernethy and Helen Harris have also been elected com-
missioners to General Assembly, in 1999 and 2003, respectively. As com-
missioner, Harris attends all Presbytery meetings for one year with voice
and vote. She is also a member of the Presbytery Committee on Ministry,
in addition to being enabler/coordinator for Presbyterian Women.
Please continue to guide and direct our efforts as we near the end
of our mission, that we might bring to our congregation a church
history that will unite us, and move us forward in spreading Thy
love and glory.
In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
— Prayer of the Committee of History and Archives, January 2005
HO A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
A GOOD SHEPHERD
Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared
for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and
you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was
a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed
me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came
— Matthew 25:34—36
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
— Psalm 23:1
The Lord works in mysterious ways. Just ask John DeBevoise why he
decided to accept the call in March 1990 as First Church's senior
minister after having previously turned down the offer.
"I told them no and told them definitely no because I really liked where
I was," DeBevoise recalled years later. "Then I began to question if I had
been open to a new place. I hoped I had done the right thing. But just as
I was praying to the Lord, 'Thy will be done,' the car radio was on and
the newscaster said, And now a word from Gastonia, North Carolina.' I
pulled off the road. The news story was that Hurricane Hugo had come
through Gastonia months earlier and that birth rates were up phenom-
enally there." DeBevoise said he took the report as a providential sign: "I
Dr. John T. DeBevoise, pastor, 1990-1995.
think the Lord was trying to nudge my heart and mind toward hearing
what those folks were trying to say."
The seven-member pulpit committee breathed a giant sigh of relief af-
ter having looked more than two years for a successor to Jim Stuart. "We
searched high, long, and wide," recalled committee member Dan LaFar
Jr. "We covered the whole eastern seaboard. We thought we had made
a real strong connection with a fellow in Pittsburgh, and we had him
down here. We made two trips up there to see him. We went to Shreve-
port, Louisiana, to Columbia, South Carolina." Other committee mem-
bers were Bonnie Blair, Elizabeth Current, Dub Dickson, Gary Fulton,
Bill Keith, and Ralph Robinson Jr., the chair. The committee members
said they read 250 resumes, visited ten churches, and met with ministers
in seven states.
122 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Dr. John Leith, professor at Union Theological Seminary in Rich-
mond, strongly recommended that the search committee consider John
DeBevoise. After DeBevoise turned down the first offer, the committee
was advised not to contact him again, LaFar said. However, a committee
member insisted they try. This time they were successful in recruiting the
tall, young, commanding DeBevoise, described by some of the committee
members as the most touchingly genuine man they ever met.
While the committee searched, the church operated under the guid-
ance of interim ministers Lawrence Stell, Zack Piephoff, Hugh Eichel-
berger, and George Gunn. A committee chaired by Bill Lawson and con-
sisting of Sarah Abernethy, David Cline, Duke Kimbrell, Joan Barringer,
and Cookie Brenner guided the administration through the interim. In
the meantime, the new $48,880 columbarium was dedicated in January
1989. The Reverend Mr. Frank Mayes, associate pastor, who had served as
advisor to the committee, led the dedication service.
Jean Kelly Adams was chair of the committee overseeing the columbar-
ium project and was among the first to be interred there. Other commit-
tee members were Ben Ferguson, Frank Mayes, Don Carmichael, Marga-
ret Upchurch, Baird Butler, Charlton Torrence, Becky Carter, Ruby Lee
Roberts, Scotty King, Sylvia Leeper,
and Wilson Dunn.
Even while the business of the
church went on, everyone knew that
the naming of an outstanding perma-
nent senior minister was imperative
to the future health of the church. "I
don't think a church can go on very
long without a strong senior minis-
ter," LaFar said, echoing the opin-
ion of many First Church lay lead-
ers. "It needs the spiritual leadership.
Reverend Frank Mayes, associate pastor.
A GOOD SHEPHERD
It needs somebody preaching from the pulpit every Sunday morning for
forty-five out of fifty-two Sunday mornings who can deliver a message."
DeBevoise had been associate pastor of Palma Ceia Presbyterian in
Tampa, Florida, for nearly four years when the search committee visited
there. "We heard him preach and literally fell head over heels," LaFar
said. DeBevoise was another perfect fit for First Church in Gastonia. He
soon made his mark on the church and the Gaston County community,
establishing a new level of social consciousness. "He was truly a man of
God," LaFar said. "I have never known anybody closer to Jesus Christ."
Many shared that sentiment.
A native of Tampa, DeBevoise had grown up in Orlando, where his
father was a Presbyterian minister. He received his bachelor's degree in
philosophy at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Then he went to
Union Theological Seminary in Richmond for his Doctor of Ministry de-
gree, spending another year to obtain a master of theology degree. After
being ordained, he served churches in Roanoke, Virginia; Winter Park,
Florida; and two in Orlando before accepting the call to Palma Ceia.
He and his wife Emalee, whom he had met at Eckerd College, had a
daughter, Beth, and a son, Joe. Another daughter, Mary Emalee, was born
while the DeBevoises were in Gastonia.
"It is with great thanksgiving that I accept the call of the First Pres-
byterian Church in Gastonia to the Senior Pastor's position," DeBevoise
wrote in the March 15, 1990, First Church of Gastonia newsletter. "Ema-
lee and I feel a deep sense of thanksgiving for the many elements which
have made up our pilgrimage to your call." He included in the newslet-
ter a statement of personal faith in which he noted that his faith had been
shaped by "a long and significant family heritage; personal encounters
with God's grace which I have known I did not deserve and which have
come to me as a gift." He paid homage to congregations who had strug-
gled with their faith and to "women and men of extraordinary devotion
who, discerning the presence of God, offered their minds, hearts, and
wills in gratitude, obedience, and care for others." He closed, "I believe
that through our redemption in Christ, God has given our lives meaning,
and the freedom to act with forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing."
DeBevoise remembered that one of the reasons he accepted the call
I24 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
to Gastonia was that he was impressed with the quality of the members.
"They had a proprietary sense about the church, and that's a good thing,"
he recalled. "Rather than a feeling like 'We go to a church where the
preacher runs it or somebody else runs it,' they had a sense that they were
responsible for the church, for caring for it, for managing it. For many of
them, that had been a responsibility of their parents before them. They
were intent on being the caretakers, stewards, witnesses for the life of that
Dr. John Leith preached the installation sermon for DeBevoise on May
20, 1990, saying, "John DeBevoise is a minister who makes teaching in a
theological seminary eminently worthwhile." He said DeBevoise had been
called to preach the gospel and to teach and to exercise pastoral care. "We
install him as pastor in this church in a very bleak time in the history of
the Presbyterian Church," Leith said. "In the last twenty-one or twenty-
two years, we have succeeded in losing 1,300,000 members. We have over
fourteen hundred fewer congregations than we had in 1966. We have less
than 50 percent of the people in church school than we had in 1966. But
never before in the history of the church have people been so open to the
gospel as they are in the American society today."
Not long after his arrival in April 1990, DeBevoise immediately plunged
his new church into a more active role in community involvement while
maintaining the high level of internal spiritual and educational activ-
ity. He launched an intern program with young people from Davidson
In the fall of 1990, Jim McAlhaney became youth director. The Rever-
end Joe Stowe was appointed as parish associate to assist DeBevoise. A na-
tive of Gastonia, Stowe had been encouraged in his ministerial studies by
the Henderlite Bible Class. He served various Presbyterian pulpits during
a successful ministerial career. When First Church asked him to serve as
part of an interim team after Dr. Stuart's resignation, Stowe accepted. He
had a sincere and uncomplicated philosophy, and his home visits and ap-
proachable demeanor endeared him to the congregation. When John and
Emalee DeBevoise accepted the call to First Church, Joe Stowe and his
wife, Beverly, became surrogate parents to the relocated DeBevoise fam-
ily. John DeBevoise's shepherding instincts were encouraged and tutored
A GOOD SHEPHERD 125
Rev. Joe E. Stowe, parish associate.
by Joe Stowe. Stowe died unexpect-
edly in 1994 following complications
of heart surgery.
With assistance and guidance from
Rev. Stowe and others, DeBevoise
quickly began making his mark at
First Church. One of the changes was
a prayer luncheon at First Church for
prisoners from the Gaston County
Correctional Facility who were re-
ceiving their GEDs (General Equiva-
lency Diplomas) in a graduation cer-
emony. "Part of what the prisoners
needed was an audience to see them
get their degrees," DeBevoise said.
"The penal system called and asked
if we would host it once, which we
did, and the people were so good about receiving the prisoners, sitting
amongst them, talking with them about their families. It was really a re-
markable expression of the hospitality of those folks who took part in that
Wednesday lunch. Many of the prisoners said, 'This is the first time in my
life that I have ever graduated from anything.'"
The luncheons often featured speakers such as North Carolina State
Senator Helen Marvin and Gill McGregor, a television announcer for the
Charlotte Hornets National Basketball Association team. Marvin defined
freedom in her talk by saying, "When your freedom encroaches on my
rights, it ceases to be your freedom."
Another major community effort undertaken by the church under De-
Bevoise's leadership was the Super Cupboard, a program of Crisis As-
sistance Ministry to bring sustenance and education to low-income sin-
gle mothers. Penny Wilson was the director for the first year, and First
Church member Becky Adams headed it for the next five years.
"They [indigent mothers] would come to the church one morning a
week," DeBevoise said. "The church would provide day care while the
moms were given basic life instruction, such as how to balance a check-
126 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
book, how to cook nutritious food, and how to fill out a job resume. So
the church put together a faculty of teachers: a representative from the
bank to help them fill out a checkbook, a representative from the com-
munity college to help them prepare a resume, a beautician who talked to
them about hygiene. They would do this for six months, and it changed
Dr. DeBevoise said the success rate was phenomenal. "Seventy-five per-
cent of these women ended up getting jobs and, with the coaching of the
faculty, got their kids in affordable day care. It turned their lives around."
The church members went beyond teaching and coaching, he said, going
so far as preparing lunch for them and even picking them up and driv-
ing them home. "A representative of the governor [Jim Martin] came and
looked at that program one day," DeBevoise said. "He showed up as kind
of a witness on his part as the sort of thing North Carolinians ought to be
Becky Adams said, "I like to think we planted a lot of seeds. We
equipped the women with valuable life tools to make lasting differences
in their lives and the lives of their children." The program ended when
changes were made in the federal social services guidelines.
The SOCKS (Serving Our Community with Kindness in Spring-
wood) organization was begun in 1978 but struggled financially. First
Presbyterian became involved in 1995— 1996 through their Christian Ac-
tion Committee, with Robert Barringer spearheading the efforts.
DeBevoise gave the following report to his
congregation at an annual meeting on Janu-
ary 27, 1991: "There is always change at work
in the church because God's spirit is at work in
the church, but this year concluded an unusual
three-year period of change in the life of this
church, including the retirement of a senior pas-
Robert Barringer, very involved with
SOCKS (Serving Our Community
with Kindness in Springwood).
A GOOD SHEPHERD
tor, the move of two associate ministers and one youth director, three in-
terim senior ministers, one interim associate, the calling of a new senior
pastor, a new parish associate, a new youth director, a committee to call a
new associate, and a hurricane."
The church did not back away from controversy under DeBevoise's
care. In October 1991, the Session voted to allow a workshop on abortion
in the spring of 1992, saying the low-profile workshop would involve peo-
ple from both sides of the issue.
In April 1992, DeBevoise reported that three members of the congre-
gation had AIDS and that five had tested positive for HIV. He recom-
mended, and the Session approved, that a subcommittee be established
under the Pastoral Care Committee to support the families of the vic-
tims. In June 1992, DeBevoise invited his father, Dr. Don T. DeBevoise of
Markham Woods Presbyterian Church in Lake Mary, Florida, to deliver
the Father's Day sermon at First Church. It was a very moving service,
with fatherhood as the theme.
In 1994, the church was one of four in the area to support a pastoral
Faith and Fiction book group. Left to right: Betsy Burleson, Kitty Peabody, Jean
Hileman, Sarah Wentz.
128 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
counseling center in Gaston County. In 1995, it established a partnership
with a church in Guatemala.
The church thrived under DeBevoise's pastoring. He started a book
group called Faith and Fiction that continues today, led by the Reverend
Patrick Perryman, associate pastor. By 1995, the budget had reached the
$1 million mark for the first time, and Sunday school attendance was the
highest in the church's history. During that same year, the Session voted
to give DeBevoise $10,000 to be used during a sabbatical.
Dr. DeBevoise was an extremely well organized and outstanding mod-
erator for the Session. He kept things in perspective and did not take it
personally if one of his recommendations was not approved. He could ac-
cept defeat graciously and move on to what he needed to do next. He had
a wonderful sense of humor, and if someone joked about one of his mis-
takes, he laughed longer and louder than anyone else. Members remem-
ber him as a giant spiritually, professionally, and even physically. He was
articulate, witty, and erudite, and he demonstrated special sensitivity to
the needs of his flock. All were equal in need in his eyes, and he devel-
oped his ministry around genuine love and service to his congregation.
All thought DeBevoise extremely wise and mature for his age. He had
an uncanny ability to recall names. "He could meet you one time and re-
member your name," several people said. "He returned early from vaca-
tions to handle funerals, weddings and baptisms. He was the epitome of
the shepherd. No one ever went to surgery without his bringing commu-
nion if they wanted it."
DeBevoise was a true scholar and excellent Bible teacher. He conducted
many Bible classes and for several years brought Dr. John Leith to the
church for three days of special Bible study. Dr. Leith was the Pemberton
Professor of Theology at Union Theological Seminary. The funds for the
weekend events were provided by the Susie and George W. Ragan Spiri-
tual Enrichment Fund. In addition to Dr. Leith, other leaders of these
events have included Dr. Tom Long of Columbia Seminary; Dr. Mary
Faith Carson, professor of Bible at Bethlehem College in Pennsylvania;
and Dr. Bill Oglesby of Union Theological Seminary.
In February 1995, DeBevoise called for a $1 million benevolence cam-
paign to be conducted internally among the members with no outside
A GOOD SHEPHERD 129
consultant. He proposed to divide the $i million, with $100,000 to go to
the Heritage Fund; $500,000 to local benevolences ($200,000 to churches
and $300,000 to other institutions); $100,000 to missions in the world
($50,000 to the Hospital of Light in Haiti and $50,000 to two projects
of the World Mission Committee, perhaps in Central America and Paki-
stan); and $300,000 to other institutions. It would be called the Joy Cam-
paign. After appointing a committee to evaluate the proposal, the Session
declined to accept his recommendation. "It just wasn't the time to do it,"
recalled Bill Keith, a member of the committee.
There were other programs under DeBevoise's leadership, such as
building houses for Habitat for Humanity, but not all the activity was
outside the church. In late October 1991, church member Noel Johnson
and DCE Allison Gordon Lineberger approached DeBevoise with the
idea of a Kirkin' of the Tartans service. DeBevoise approved the idea and
gave his reasons to the congregation in a November 7, 1991, issue of the
church newsletter: "Someone asked me the other day, 'Why is a French
Huguenot like DeBevoise interested in celebrating the Scottish roots of
the Presbyterian Church with a Kirkin' of the Tartans service?' Well,
that's a good question. Presbyterians have come from a variety of limbs
on the family tree and our Christian heritage goes back to France, Ger-
Two greats: Mayor Jick Garland (eating) and Howard Whisnant,
13O A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Noel Johnson in the 2002 Kirkin' of the Tartans service.
many, Italy, Spain, and Israel! But, the branch of the Christian faith in the
U.S.A. called Presbyterianism does have particularly strong connections
with Scotland." He explained that he would give his full reasoning in his
sermon during that first Kirkin' service at eleven o'clock on Sunday, No-
vember 10, 1991, whereas his associate Dr. Joe Stowe would be conducting
a more traditional service at the nine o'clock chapel service. "So whether
bagpipes strike your fancy or raise your dander, we are trying to offer
something for everyone," DeBevoise wrote.
Since that first Kirkin' in 1991, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. George
Henry Jr., First Presbyterian of Gastonia's service has grown into im-
mense popularity, as evidenced by a crowded sanctuary each year. From
the initial Sunday when members had to borrow tartans to wear and carry
A GOOD SHEPHERD
The 2004 Kirkin' of the Tartans service. Left to right: Jay Garrett, Dr. John DeBe-
voise, Dr. Dan Wilson, Dr. David Stoker, Gloria Hickson.
in the sanctuary, they now proudly display fifty-five individual tartans. As
a measure of respect, John Peden, as chief of his clan, has been seen plac-
ing his ceremonial sword diagonally across his body, the sign of peace in
The ceremony itself is based on Scottish history and legend. In 1746,
following the defeat of the Scots by the English at the Battle of Culloden,
Scotland once again came under British rule. Scots were forbidden not
only from carrying arms, but also from wearing kilts, plaid, or any other
tartan garment. As the legend goes, the stubborn Scots secretly carried
a piece of their clan's tartan with them to church (kirk is Scottish for
"church"), and the minister then slipped a blessing (a Kirkin') into the
In 2002, as guest for the Kirkin' service, Dr. Jim Stuart, of Scottish
heritage, delivered an inspiring and informative sermon about the history
of the Presbyterian Church. In 2003, Dr. Billy Wireman, former presi-
dent of Queens University in Charlotte, delivered the guest sermon at the
Kirkin', attended by a capacity crowd.
132 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Members of First Church received a shock when they opened their
mail on July 24, 1995, to find a letter of resignation from their beloved se-
nior minister, John DeBevoise. "It was totally unexpected," Dan LaFar Jr.
recalled. "We thought he would be here forever." In his letter, DeBevoise
tried to explain why he was leaving after five and a half years to return
to the congregation in Tampa. "I have neither solicited nor sought this
call from Palma Ceia," he wrote. "But now, God's providence working
through this call has presented Emalee and me with the opportunity to
serve the Lord by pastoring a church and being accessible to our extended
family. As we have lived 10 of the 16 years of our marriage far away from
family, this opportunity is a compelling one. Health patterns in my ex-
tended family make it clear to me that I may have the opportunity to be
of some service to them."
DeBevoise said in his letter, "No congregation could have treated their
pastor and his family any more kindly than you have treated us and our
children. Together with you we have sought to serve the Lord in this
church and I feel blessed to have been your pastor. The privilege of stand-
ing with you as pastor, with individuals and families in joy and sadness,
in worship and fellowship, in mission and service, has strengthened my
The Gastonia Gazette marked DeBevoise's departure with a story cred-
iting him with organizing community Lenten services in six major Gas-
tonia churches beginning in 1992 and a cross-denominational pulpit ex-
change in January. The Gazette quoted First Church member Bill Keith:
"He has had not only a strong preaching ministry, but a very strong pas-
toring ministry." Keith had been a member of the pulpit committee that
Gazette columnist Bill Williams quoted First Church member Tom
Efird as saying, "We were looking for a great preacher, but what we got
was a great pastor also. He is one of those guys who is not only so good
that he talks the talk but also walks the walk. He has done so much for
the community. My wife Anne put it into perspective when she said, 'He
is the most Christ-like man I have ever known.'"
In the August 3, 1995, church newsletter, DeBevoise said farewell and
told the membership that an interim minister would be sought to take his
A GOOD SHEPHERD 133
place while a search was being conducted for his permanent replacement.
"I want to thank you for the notes, prayers, and support that have come
forth as I have shared with you the news of my transition," he wrote.
"Your Christian character continues to shine forth and once again my ex-
perience is that it is you who are pastoring me rather than the other way
around." It was DeBevoise's last official word to the congregation, and
August 27 of that year was his last day.
Within a month, Dr. Donald Mitchell, a veteran Presbyterian pastor,
became interim while the search proceeded for a permanent senior min-
ister. In the October 5, 1995, church newsletter, Mitchell, who had been
on the job three days, introduced himself by saying, "In a congregation
of over 1,500 members that supports multiple activities, that has over fifty
separate committees and an extensive staff, the 'getting to know you' phase
constitutes a genuine challenge." A native of New Zealand, he had been a
missionary teacher in Peru before leaving to study at Princeton Theologi-
cal Seminary, where he received his Doctor of Theology degree. He came
to First Church of Gastonia after having been interim at Carmel Presbyte-
rian in Charlotte, First Presbyterian of Kings Mountain, and Cook's Me-
morial Presbyterian in Charlotte. He had also been a professor and then
dean at Montreat-Anderson College, vice president for academic affairs
at Wheaton College, and for ten years president of King College in Bris-
tol, Tennessee. Mitchell recalled that when he took the interim position at
First Church, "One of my jobs was to counsel with staff and redefine job
descriptions and see that the job descriptions were followed."
While he was serving as interim, Mitchell and his wife, Grace, enjoyed
taking trips with the Presbyterian Trotters, a travel group that Jean Ad-
ams started in 1979. Annabelle and David Royster gave a bus, which was
used on Trotters trips. Usually David Pegram or Dan McCurry, who had
chauffeur's licenses, drove gratis. The group, which was led by Mrs. Ad-
ams and two of her neighbors, Presbyterian members Barbara Hunter and
Sylvia Leeper, began by chartering buses for short day trips. The program
grew to include longer stays in places such as Colonial Williamsburg in
Virginia; San Francisco, California; and eventually Alaska, Canada, and
134 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Roadrunners go off to Flat Rock Playhouse, July 17, 2003.
Overall the church continued to operate smoothly, and the 1996 bud-
get reached $1,025,000. The Presbyterian Endowment Trust (PET),
which had been created in 1977, received its largest contributions in 1997:
$750,000 from the estate of Carroll Harmon and $100,000 from the Elis-
abeth Love More estate, bringing the total endowment to $1,622,177. The
largest previous contribution had come in 1991 from Miss Pearl Wilson at
Covenant Village, who designated $150,000 toward mission work at the
Also in 1996, the Stephen Ministry of First Presbyterian Church, de-
signed to reach out to the congregation, was started under the leadership
of Sarah Abernethy and Assistant Minister Ron Gilreath. Abernethy, her
husband, Bo, and Gilreath attended a week-long training session for Ste-
phen Ministers in 1996 at the University of Washington in Seattle. More
than six hundred people from all over the United States and several for-
eign countries also were trained that week. This national congregational
support program thrives in churches throughout the United States.
A GOOD SHEPHERD
Now Lord, be our Good Shepherd as well. Enable us to leave
this place and to walk into your future. Write the good news of
the gospel on our hearts with such strength that nothing can erase
it. Help us to turn not only Thelma and those we love, but even
ourselves into your everlasting arms. For we pray remembering
your son, Jesus Christ.
— From a prayer of dedication by the Reverend Dr. John
DeBevoise, senior pastor, ippo—ippd, on the occasion of the
memorial service for Mrs. Blake Breitenhirt (Thelma),
136 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
THE CHURCH TODAY
O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love
— Psalm 136:1
A fter eighteen months of traveling and interviewing candidates, the
Jl\. pulpit nominating committee announced in December 1996 that it
had decided to recommend Dr. David Stoker, who was senior minister at
South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida, where
he had served for eight years. Again, the process had been a result of
persistence on the part of a search committee member. This time it was
William Lewis Craig. Craig made regular stops at the South Jacksonville
Church on the way to see his son, Brian, who was on the golf team at the
University of Florida in Gainesville. After Craig's third visit, the Stokers
made a formal trip to Gastonia.
"What struck me was David's evangelistic spirit and enthusiasm," re-
called Mark Davis, who, in his mid-thirties, was the youngest member
of the search committee. "I thought he would fit well with our congre-
Born in Asheville on December 24, 1953, Stoker graduated from the
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and received his Master of Di-
vinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1980 and his Doctor of
Ministry degree in 1991 from Fuller Theological Seminary, an interdenomi-
national evangelical seminary in California. He served three years as an
Dr. David Stoker, pastor, 1997—2005.
assistant minister at Lakewood First Presbyterian Church in Long Beach,
California, before becoming associate pastor at the National Presbyterian
Church in Washington, D.C., a church that also had been designed by ar-
chitect Harold Wagoner of Philadelphia.
While in Washington, he met his wife Monica, a stockbroker from
Grosse Pointe, Michigan. As a pastor from the National Church, Stoker
traveled and preached in Africa; Russia; and Edinburgh, Scotland. He
also led many church trips to Israel, Scotland, and Germany to see the fa-
mous Passion play at Oberammergau. After six years at National Presby-
I38 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
terian, where President Ronald Reagan often worshipped, Stoker accepted
a call to go to South Jacksonville Presbyterian. By the time he answered
the call to First Church in Gastonia on December 26, 1996, Stoker and
his wife had three children, Andrew, age four, Sarah, two, and Nathan,
Stoker began his ministry on March 10, 1997, in a very unusual way.
Before he arrived at the church, he began receiving telephone calls ask-
ing him about a former music director at the church, the Reverend Herff
Applewhite. Stoker wrote in the church newsletter, "I remember when
I first heard the report on television, I said to myself, 'This is going to
be damaging to the Christian cause. Please don't let this cult leader be a
Presbyterian.' When I arrived at the church that morning, I found mo-
bile news trucks broadcasting by satellite in the parking lot. Inside I was
greeted by reporters. I discovered that not only was Herff Applewhite
a former Presbyterian, he was a former employee of First Presbyterian
Applewhite was the leader of the Heaven's Gate cult in Rancho Santa
Fe, California, where he and thirty-eight members committed mass sui-
Left to right: Dr. David Stoker, Rev. John Pruitt, Rev. Patrick Perryman.
THE CHURCH TODAY 139
Reformation Sunday, 2004. Left to right: John Calvin (Brian Allf ), John
Knox (Noel Johnson), and Martin Luther (Chris Parsons).
cide on three successive days starting on March 23, 1997. They believed
that the Hale-Bopp comet's passing would reveal a spaceship coming for
their souls to take them to another planet. During Applewhite's Gasto-
nia service, he had no cult associations and was perceived as a skillful
Stoker said one of the reasons for the attractiveness of the call to First
Church was its potential. "This church has incredible rich resources in ev-
ery way, certainly rich resources in personnel and people, the leaders and
the leadership in this church and in Gastonia and Gaston County," he
said. "The striking sanctuary itself is a witness to the community. Every-
one knows this church. It has been so involved in mission and so involved
in the betterment of the community through its financial resources and
Soon after Stoker arrived in 1997, the church underwent another goal-
setting. Called Vision 2000, the committee was headed by Ralph Robin-
son Jr. and included a Sessional retreat and congregational meetings.
A consultant, Carolyn Weese of Multi-Staff Ministries in Goodyear,
140 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Elements of communion. The bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of
Christ. The IHS banner is a symbol of the church, representing the Greek words for
Arizona, spent eight days at the church conferring with more than 250
members. Weese's thirty-four-page report on November 21, 1997, was a
hard-hitting analysis of the nuts and bolts of the church's operation. She
recommended changes to staff, organizational design, financial strategy,
and ministerial programs. Such recommendations were controversial and
"Some recommendations may require change," Weese wrote. "All of the
recommendations are made in order to move the church out of neutral
and into a growing mode." Weese's negative report proved to be contro-
versial among church members, but eventually several of her recommen-
dations were adopted. "We knew we had some problems going in, but our
THE CHURCH TODAY
main concern was we wanted an outside consultant for a clear view," said
Vision 2000 committee member Tom Efird. "A number of items were
very definitely followed up — for example, her recommendations that the
church's appearance needed to be spiffed up." A number of major renova-
tions were accomplished, including more offices. First Presbyterian staff
members were replaced and office volunteers were phased out. In spite of
a difficult adjustment, the goal-setting was completed.
After the goal-setting process was completed in 2001, Stoker said,
The bottom line was that people said they wanted to grow spiri-
tually and I think we have done that. We have instituted a new
contemporary worship service called the Joy Service. Under the
leadership of elder Mark Davis, a committee began to meet in 2000
to study whether or not our church needed to add a "contemporary
praise" service. The committee met for over one and a half years
with the first year "bathed in prayer." Once decided and approved
by the Session, the committee chose the name of "Joy in the Morn-
ing," and the first JOY Service was held on June 23, 2002. Lee Taylor,
elder serving the committee, said of this new service, "The JOY
Henderlite Bible Class teachers. Left to right: Alex Hall, Geof Planer,
Noel Johnson, Charlie Grissom, Tom Efird.
142 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Joy in the Morning contemporary service, September 2004.
Service is structured by the Session to include all worship standards
and sacraments as required in the Book of Order in the Presbyterian
Church, USA. Even though the Christian music and instruments
are considered contemporary, the dress is casual and a video screen is
used. The sermons are based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Services
may include drama and current event videos, performances by our
various children's choirs and special speakers. Growth has been
steady and this new service has become a vital part of our church's
In addition to this innovative service, church school classes have
come to include a broadened curriculum. More than 300 people
THE CHURCH TODAY 143
2004 Session. Seated: Marion Call, Sarah Abernethy, Elizabeth Sumner,
Susan Stover, Annabelle Kelly, Martha Beal, Gail Ebner, Jean Marie Torrence.
Standing: David Stoker, W. W. Dickson, Brian Schroeder, Lee Taylor, James
Blair, Gordon Quarles, Charles Gallman, Ben Morrow, John Bridgeman,
Lon Waggoner, Steve Brittain, David King, Grady Kennington.
Shelly Carter, Congregational Care Ministry, 2004.
2004 deacons. First row: Carl Kunkle, Mary Sumner, Peggy Robertson, Mary
Layton, Judith Planer, Beverly Sumner, John Lemmon. Second row: Beverly Brad-
shaw, Anna Fanning, Linda Nelson, Elizabeth Thrower, Rebecca Adams, Barbara
Hammerle, Patricia McCurry. Third row: Scott Pierce, Thomas Brown, Thomas
Kirkham, Will Hooker, Larry Wilson, Robert Buckles, John Sherron, Benjamin
Beasley, Rebecca Roberts.
have taken the "Experiencing God" class, and the Sunday school
classes have grown with a 17 percent increase in Christian Education
I am so proud of First Presbyterian's involvement in the building of
Third Street Presbyterian Church (see photo in color insert), and of
our involvement with the new Interfaith Hospitality Network where
we house people in need during one week every quarter. I am proud
of our involvement feeding children at the Salvation Army Boys and
Girls Club four nights each month. I am grateful that we remain
one of the largest contributors to the Crisis Assistance Ministry to
feed the hungry. I am grateful to God that during this ministry we
THE CHURCH TODAY
have built the third, fourth and fifth Habitat for Humanity houses.
Ten percent of all the Habitat Houses in Gaston County have been
built by First Presbyterian Church. Sharing the responsibility for
these good missions with other churches is a bonding experience for
In September 2001, Dr. Stoker participated in a Presbyterian peace-
making trip to the nation of Jordan. He and fourteen other Presbyterian
pastors were returning to New York City on the morning of September
11. After the terrorist attack, Dr. Stoker's plane was rerouted to Shannon,
Ireland, where he and the other pastors in his group remained stranded
for eight days. During that tense period, First Presbyterian rallied around
Dr. Stoker's family. Also during his absence, Associate Pastors John Pruitt
and Patrick Perryman gave leadership in a particularly moving worship
service for all those affected by 9/11.
In his leisure time, Dr. Stoker enjoys golf, world travel, Boy Scouts, and
family time with Monica and their three children. He and his wife enjoy
The 2003-2004 PET committee. Left to right: Liz Current, Liz Sumner, Gene
Matthews, Dan LaFar, Doug Stover, Pat Morrow, Dr. David Stoker, Bill Adams.
Absent: Sally Robinson, Tim Efird, Ring T Stafford.
146 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Iris Willcox, Irene
Cherry, and Mary
Katherine Keith in
the Heritage Room,
traveling. His favorite form of recreation is tending to his three hives of
bees, a hobby he began as a Boy Scout at the age of fourteen.
A personal friend and church member said of Dr. Stoker, "David came
to First Presbyterian at a time when the national church was in a era of
change. He has served us in that change."
At a regular Session meeting on June 26, 2005, Dr. Stoker announced
to the Session that he had activated his Personal Information Form and
he was presently seeking a new call or vocation. The following month at
a called Session meeting, Dr. Stoker was awarded a six month sabbati-
cal. This gift was approved following Dr. Stoker's request to terminate his
pastoral relationship with First Presbyterian Church.
And now may God strengthen you in His Glorious might . . .
and may Jesus Christ His Son go before you to lead you . . . above
you to protect you . . . beneath you to sustain you in your times of
trouble. May Christ Jesus be beside you to be your friend . . . and
may He dwell within you to fill you with His love and His peace
that nothing in the world can take away! Amen.
— Colossians 1:11, traditional benediction of Dr. David C
Stoker, senior minister, ippy—200$
THE CHURCH TODAY
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the be-
lievers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith,
— / Timothy 4:12
As an Eagle Scout, Dr. Stoker was pleased to be at the helm of the
Jf\. church on November 14, 1998, when Boy Scout Troop 11 (see photo
in color insert), formed in the church in 1923, celebrated its seventy-fifth
anniversary. Troop 11 is a legend in Boy Scouting circles. The anniversary
celebration was a glorious affair attended by Jere B. Ratcliffe, the chief
executive of Boy Scouts of America, and several hundred people. Among
the honored guests were a number of prominent Gastonia area business
leaders who have become Eagle Scouts in Troop 11. They included former
Gastonia Mayor James B. (Jick) Garland and Duke Kimbrell, president
and chief executive officer of Parkdale Mills, whose father C. C. Kim-
brell had served as Scoutmaster of Troop 11 from 1935 until 1941. He again
served this troop as Master from 1943 to 1947. Garland, who served as
mayor from 1987 to 1997, grew up in the church. His father and mother,
Peter W. Garland and Kathleen Boyce Garland, were faithful members,
and his maternal great-grandfather was Captain J. Q. Holland, a member
of the first Session.
The headquarters for the eleven-county Piedmont Council Scout head-
quarters was constructed on Franklin Avenue in memory of C. C. Kim-
Cub Pack/Den 2, circa 1950. Left to right: Jimmy Franklin, Dick
Jarman, Tom Watson, Bill Jarman, Billy Wetzell, Bill Wyche, Jimmy
Taylor, Marshall LaFar, Leslie McLean.
C. C. Kimbrell Boy Scout Service Center.
brell. A complete list of recipients of the prestigious Silver Beaver Award
is included with the appendix. In 2004, Troop 11 had forty-three Scouts
with ten adult leaders, including the present Scoutmaster, Steve Owens,
who took over in 1996. In 2000, the troop was chosen as one of only
fifteen in the United States to be invited to the International Scout Camp-
oree in Michigan.
Boy Scout Troop 11, 2004, is plate 6 in the color insert. Kneeling: Lee
Rollins, Jack Collier, Jack Meakin, James Collier, Joseph Vaughn, James
Rios, Sam Roach, Ben Rowley. Seated: Andrew McCully, Will Choquet,
Thomas Hauer, Preston Dole, Harrison McSpadden, Charles Nason, Mat-
thew Knight, Jamie Sims. Standing: Lee Spencer, John Rowley (adult),
Turner Vaughn, Michael Sims (adult), Anderson Gibbons, Turner Alli-
son, Parker Sytz, Connor McSpadden, John Faine, Steve Owens (Scout-
master), Brandon Jones, Ernest Sumner, Ethan Browning, A. J. Current,
The Scouting program was expanded over the years by the addition
of Girl Scouts. Since the First Church Girl Scout troop was organized in
the 1920s, many women and some men have been active. The first leaders
were Miss Sarah Gardner and Miss Mary John Howe. At that time, the
girls were either Girl Scouts or Brownies. First Presbyterian now serves all
levels: Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, and Senior Girl Scouts (see photo
in color insert). From the start of Girl Scouting in Gaston County, the
women of First Presbyterian have assumed leadership positions. In 1933,
Lucia Groves Mercer was the first chairperson and commissioner of the
Gaston County Girl Scouts. Marguerite Ring Torrence held that position
in 1939, a time of tremendous growth at Camp Rotary, and she oversaw
the installation of a swimming pool.
During the pastorate of the Reverend Ellis, there were three active Girl
Scout troops. Leaders were Miss Rebecca Falls, senior troop; Miss Mary
Olive Walker, intermediate; and Mrs. Arthur Spencer Jr. (Marguerite),
Brownies. Helen Ragan Barnett was commissioner of the Gaston County
Girl Scouts in 1945, and her husband, Joe Barnett, served as treasurer
for many years. Under the direction of Carolyn Warren Sumner, the Pi-
oneer Council celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Girl Scouting on March
11, 1958. Camp Rotary 's twenty-fifth anniversary was in 1963, with Jean
Brownie Troop 15 in 1963. Front row: Harriett Benson, Holly Williams, Ibby Page,
Susan Kelly, Virginia Patrick, Peggy Upchurch, Jamie Minges, Dottie Zeigler, Bar-
bara Sudduth. Second row: Cindy Bennett, Betty Hamner, April Anderson, Betsy
Culp, Helen Beal, Bobi Smith, Janet Brendle, Ann Bryant, Leigh Ann Robinson.
Third row, troop leaders: Annelle Kelly, Mary Ann Patrick, Margaret Upchurch.
Groves Dixon at the council's head. She was followed by Mary Lytle in
1964, when the two camps, Camp Rotary and Camp Kiwanis, were in-
tegrated. Margaret Dunn Upchurch was the president in 1966, when the
council purchased the property for Camp Golden Valley. Brownie Smyre,
a longtime Cadette leader, was president in 1979, when a basketball court,
tennis court, and backpacking trail were added to Camp Golden Val-
ley. The Marguerite Ring Torrence Service Center was purchased in 1989,
when Julia Shovelin was the president. Ring Torrence oversaw the suc-
cessful capital fund campaign that paid for the new service center. B'Ann
Vance served as public relations and fund-raising director of the commu-
nity program and lent stability and innovative leadership.
Girl Scout Sunday, March 2005, is plate 7 in the color insert. First Row:
152 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Leeann Harris, Carlisle Harris, unknown, Mamie Buckles, Jordan Bry-
ant, Michelle Vaughn, unknown, Krista Payne, Pressley Howe, unknown,
Morgan Bryant. Second Row: Hailey Collis, Anna Paschall, Julia Kay Re-
ese, Anna Allf, unknown, Emily Rhodes, Hannah Newcombe, Bailey
Bullock, Tori Rhinehart. Third Row: Jeanne Allf, Emily Collis, Natalie
Jones, Coralie Watts, Sarah Winget, Maddie Bone, unknown, Georgia
Belk, Mary Lanier Williams, Addy Goff, unknown. Fourth Row: Jennifer
Newcombe, Erica Payne, Gwen Foster, Emma Nelli, Parker Hodges, Eliz-
abeth Black, Hannah O'Neill, Garrison Hodges, Whitner Wise, Shelton
Winget. Fifth Row: Lori Rutherford, Katie Reese, Marti Morris, Kenna
Watts, Beverly Bradshaw, Debbi Cockfield, Tyler Bullock, Anna Bryant.
Throughout the years, hundreds of First Presbyterian women have
served as leaders of the troops of the church. They have helped the girls
develop their own leadership skills using the democratic process of the
Girl Scout program. Because of the dedication of the women of the
church, hundreds of girls in our extended church area have had their lives
enriched and have developed as competent, caring citizens.
Marguerite Ring Torrence Girl Scout Service Center.
- ^-^ '•
Girl Scout Troop 74 in 1964. Back row: Rose Forrest, Jane Rankin, Nina Forrest, Ann
Culp, Margaret Lawson, Katherine Parks, Katherine Hamner, Susan Owensby, Judy
Hooks, Louise Eyler. Middle row: Lou Anne Talley, Sandra Moore, Karen Walker,
Mary Ann Cole, Jane Albright, Debbie Williams, Patsy Brison, Carolyn Eaker, Dell
Richardson, Ann Watson. Front row: Mary Wetzell, Debbie Feuer, Lee Whitener,
Ginny Armstrong, Linda Long, Marjorie Williams, Elizabeth Akers, Tern Dickson,
Susan Tull, Sandy Thomas, Shirley Hendrix.
Our Father, bless now those who stand at this dividing point in
their lives, that they may know their work is not done, but only
beginning. Be present with them as they continue their pursuit of
knowledge necessary to equip them for mastery of life.
Help them not to be greedy and haughty, but instead to use
their time and treasure to build a better world.
Send us out with a commitment of mind and heart to promote
the welfare and serve the common good of all.
— From a prayer of commencement, 1983, by the Reverend Dr.
James G. Stuart, senior minister, 1968— 1988
154 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND
MINISTRIES OF THE CHURCH
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that
teaches in all good things.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we
shall reap, if we faint not.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all
men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
— Galatians 6:6, p, 10
First Church has never forgotten its commitment to maintain strong
religious-education programs for its membership. Building on its leg-
acy, the church entered a new era in 1961 with the advent of the new facili-
ties. In the beginning, the Sunday school superintendent's main job was
to recruit and supply Sunday school teachers and their helpers. Over the
years, outstanding lay leaders held the post, but slowly the position gave
way to the Christian Education Committee and assigned assistant or as-
sociate ministers as Directors of Christian Education. By 1961, the educa-
tional program was divided into primary, elementary, junior high, and se-
nior high age groups. Macie Ormand was the chair in charge of Christian
Education in the primary and elementary divisions.
In 1962, Ellen Fain Bowen became the founding director of the Presby-
terian Weekday Program, a preschool program that provided scholarships
to deal with the need for an integrated student body. Mrs. William L.
Mickie Andrews' last day at Presbyterian Weekday School, with
Vacation Bible School, 1998.
Wetzell Jr. (Nan) succeeded Bowen, and Dorothy McKenzie followed her
in May 1974, retiring in 1998. It was under McKenzie's untiring effort and
outstanding leadership that the Presbyterian Weekday School became ac-
credited in 1988 by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs.
"We started on a shoestring, a broken shoestring," recalled veteran
teacher Mickie Andrews. The school that had started with twenty-five
children had more than two hundred by 2003, when Andrews retired af-
ter thirty-nine years of service. (She is still called today when needed.)
The present director is Paulette Elmore.
The through-the-week school is only one part of the highly successful
educational program at First Church. The Children's Ministry for Infants
through Fifth Graders also includes six levels of Sunday school (kinder-
garten through fifth grades), Children's Church, the nursery, Mothers'
Morning Out, Vacation Bible School, and the Fall Festival. Laura Parsons
has been the director of Children's Ministry since 2000. Although her pri-
mary service is to recruit and equip the parents and volunteers to proceed
with the ministry to children, Laura works directly with children when
• V rj
Our teams are
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND MINISTRIES OF THE CHURCH
she gives children's sermons in worship and when she leads the four-week
children's sacraments class for fourth graders in preparation for World
Wide Communion. The nursery continues to grow, and nursery coordi-
nator Mary Reese came on board in the fall of 2002.
In April 2001, the Children's Ministry buried a time capsule for the
playground dedication to be reopened in 2021. It included such items as a
sippy cup, a story quilt, a photograph album, an eight-millimeter video-
cassette, letters to children of the future, facts about the present, and
hopes for the future. Also inside were the school class roster book and
the Children's Ministry Sunday school roster for 2000-2001 and vari-
ous other items. Mrs. Dan Page (Ibby) and Mrs. Joseph Holman (Amy)
chaired the event.
One former member of First Church remembers Vacation Bible School
in the late 1920s ran for several weeks under the leadership of Dr. Hender-
lite and the Reverend Joe Overmyer. Bible study and memorizing scrip-
ture were emphasized. Betty Sloan Stowe recalls that Lucille Rankin and
Myrtle Warren were teachers. Stowe remembers that when she could not
Atlanta would like to have this group!
A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Learning and teaching the Ten Commandments.
recite from memory chapter thirteen of I Corinthians as assigned, Miss
Warren had her go on the steps until she could recite the chapter. The
children enjoyed many activities, including picnics, various games, swim-
ming, trips to Crowders Mountain, and exploring a haunted house.
In the adult area, the Henderlite Bible Class and the Ladies' Bible
Class enjoy the most consistent teachers and use the Uniform Lesson Se-
ries. Other adult classes — the Seekers, Koinonia, and Connections classes
— choose various topics and enlist their own teachers. Until the early
1990s, organization of the church school was directed by the Christian
Education Committee, which reported directly to the Session. Now a
more flexible church-school operation exists.
First Church also is still active in such programs as Habitat for Hu-
manity, and in June 2004 took on a new challenge with the beginnings
of the Interfaith Hospitality Network. It is a nationwide network of car-
ing churches and individuals who are given the Christ-like charge to help
needy families get back on their feet by providing temporary housing
and Christian support. Under Elder Grady Kennington's active leader-
ship, more than seventy-five First Church members signed up to partici-
pate with Betsy King and Beth Silvers as cochairs.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND MINISTRIES OF THE CHURCH
Henderlite Bible Class prepares for a fellowship meal. Left to right: David Dickson,
Charles Massey, Noel Johnson, Bill Quarles, Phil Williams, Dan Wilson, Jim
McKenize, Michael Dickson.
Henderlite Bible Class, circa 1992.
Top to bottom:
school class, estab-
Ladies' Bible Class,
Susan Allen and Grady
Our future thinking.
The future looks extremely bright for two particular areas — youth ac-
tivities and music. For many years the youth program has been outstand-
ing in the life of First Church. In the 1940s Easter sunrise services were
joint programs of First Presbyterian and First Methodist youth. Adults
transported the groups on trucks to the foot of Crowders Mountain.
With the aid of large flashlights they climbed to the peak while it was still
dark. At the very top of the mountain they had a most meaningful service
of worship just as the sun rose. A former DRE said recently, "I will never
forget Mildred Romer singing 'I Know That My Redeemer Liveth' as the
sun was rising over the mountain." Afterward, a hearty breakfast at First
Methodist Church was enjoyed by all the early worshippers.
Since Pratt Butler became youth director in June 2002, participation
and attendance have accelerated. Retreats, ski trips, movies, and special
events, which were begun earlier, have been contributing to growth in
the youth program. Butler, a UNC-Chapel Hill business-school gradu-
ate and a one-man whirlwind, can be seen all over the county attending
sports events and other activities that First Church youth are involved in.
Unbelievably, more than sixty youth manage to get up early every Thurs-
162 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
day for breakfast and Bible study at 6:30 a.m. at Alfred and Charlie's BBQ
on New Hope Road, where they meet in same-sex groups called Morning
Montage and Flamingle. On one particular morning, even after snow had
caused school to be cancelled, forty youth still showed up.
Butler, who is from Charlotte, had been considering a job in Colorado,
but heard about the First Church job and jumped at the chance. He grew
up as a Presbyterian; his grandfather, the Reverend Clyde Pratt, was pas-
tor of several churches in Charlotte and elsewhere.
"We have had a very active youth program for the past sixty-five years,
but over the last two we have really moved to another level," said Grady
Kennington, a youth leader at First Church since 1978.
Every other year, the senior high school students journey to Jamaica
on a mission trip, and every year the mid-highs travel to Appalachia on a
mission trip to help repair homes of the less fortunate. This mission min-
istry is the exponent of the ICE program begun by Pete Carruthers in the
Thursday breakfast and Bible study at 6:30 a.m. at Alfred and Charlie's, where the
youth meet in same-sex groups called Morning Montage and Flamingle. April 2004.
In 2005, Staff Sergeant Samuel Wilds visited the Afterschool Program and presented
the class with a United States flag flown in Iraq during his service there.
Our Father in Heaven, we gather this morning in this house of
worship to lift our voices in prayer and praise to You. With the
psalmist of old, we say "This is the day the Lord has made, let
us rejoice and be glad in it. " We come rejoicing that through
Christ we can come before You, confident that You hear our
prayers and respond to our needs. You alone are worthy of our
worship, O God.
We are thankful this day for our church, First Presbyterian.
We are grateful for the ways it has touched so many lives for so
many years. We lift before you those of our church who have spe-
cial needs this day. For those who are sick in body or mind, we
pray for healing. May they sense Your presence in a very special
and powerful way. There are others that come to our mind, and
we whisper their names now silently to You.
Our hearts are full, dear God, with gratitude for ordinary
blessings: the unreserved joy of children, the steady love of friends
and spouses and parents and grandparents, the warmth of the sun
164 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
on our faces, fresh breezes, and life-giving rain, the beauty of art
and music. O God, you have so richly blessed us in so many ways
and we are so deeply grateful.
In the midst of all we do, remind us of how much You love us,
and that You ask in return that we love You and love others in
Lord, make us all your instruments . . .
Where there is hatred, let us spread love.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is sadness, joy.
For we make these prayers in the name of Jesus, who taught us
to pray . . . Our Father, who art in heaven . . .
— Prayer offered September y, 2002, by David C. Stoker, senior
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND MINISTRIES OF THE CHURCH 165
Plate i. Church exterior with Crowders Mountain in the distance. Photograph
by LOF Productions.
Plate 2. Senior High Beach Bash, 2004.
Plate 3. The Heritage Room.
Plate 4. Big decisions being made: Cas Taylor, Pat Morrow, Gary
Evans, Bo Abernethy.
Plate f. Drama performance, The Sound of Music.
Plate 6. Boy Scout Troop n, 2004. See caption on page 151.
Plate 7. Girl Scout Sunday, March, 2005. See caption on pages 152-153.
Plate 8. Our church bus and crew: Bob Jackson, Wilson Dunn, John Mason III.
Plate p. An enthusiastic youth program, 2004.
Plate 10, above. Clan tartans used in
the annual Kirkin' of the Tartans
Plate ii, right. Easter flower cross
and stained-glass window.
Plate 12. Easter Sunrise Service in the columbarium.
Plate 13. Dr. Harry Moffett
in the Belgium Congo, April
i960, with his five-pound
Plate 14, beloiv. Ground
breaking for new Third
Street Presbyterian Church,
a largely African-American
congregation on Highland
Avenue. First Presbyterian
Church of Gastonia gave
them $300,000 to rebuild
their church in 2000.
Plate i$. Our 2000-
— bless them!
Plate 16. An active young choir.
WORSHIP AND MUSIC
And David and all Israel played before God with all their
might, with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and
— / Chronicles 13:8
At a time the universal church has lost its sphere of influence
upon the declining culture of our time, it is imperative that the
church takes its rightful historic place as the cultural center of
the community through music, worship, and the arts.
— Timothy Belk, organist,
quoted in The Gaston Gazette, October 2003
Music always has been important at First Church. From the very
beginning, the church has had a succession of talented musicians.
Each added to the program, which now consists of many singing and hand-
bell ensembles. These programs offer all ages the opportunity for partici-
pation and service to the church community and for personal education
and fellowship. These opportunities come through a variety of programs.
Choir ensembles, which include adult, youth, and children's choirs, have
grown in program and participation, especially since the 1940s. Member-
ship in one of the various choirs may start at age four. First Church mem-
ber Bill Kelly recalls being in choirs for twelve years under Choir Direc-
tor Edith Warren. Mrs. Warren retired in 1969, after having replaced the
Sanctuary showing choir loft and organ.
Reverend Her ff Applewhite in 1953. "I was asked to stay for three months,
and I stayed fifteen years," she said. Mrs. Warren was the chairman of an
unofficial committee of choir members in 1961 that recommended that the
choir and the organ be placed in the gallery of the sanctuary in the new
building. John Hebblethwaite followed Edith Warren as director of mu-
sic and organist.
Hughes Huffman later became choir director. (His wife, Debbie Huff-
man, was organist.) Mr. Huffman organized the Madrigal Singers, a
Victorian-costumed double quartet that sang at churches and organiza-
tions in Gastonia and the surrounding area.
In 1985 Marcia Mau became music director. She built a children's choir
program with the help of volunteer directors, and it was a part of the
Wednesday-night Stuff n' Study program. She conducted major cho-
ral works with the Sanctuary Choir, which often included other church
l68 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
One of our many talented youth choirs.
choirs. The handbell program was also expanded during her ministry. She
introduced Meet the Composer weekend with Helen Hubbard Kemp as
Jeff Weiss continued the Meet the Composer weekend, with other area
churches participating. During his tenure, Allan Pote, Hal Hobson, and
Andre Thomas were guest composers. Weiss took the Youth Choir on an
out-of-state tour. In 2003, Anna Laura Page, a noted composer of cho-
ral and handbell music, was the guest artist. She was commissioned by
Janet Jackson and Leslie Lewis to write, "May the Grace of God Go with
You," a choral benediction for voices and handbells. It was premiered un-
der Miss Page's direction at the eleven o'clock Sunday morning worship
Mrs. Ernest L. McFarland (Mary) became director of music in 1999,
following her second tenure as interim director. Mrs. McFarland is a grad-
uate of James Madison University and received a master's degree in voice
performance from East Carolina University. A certified carillonneur and
member of the Guild of Carillonneurs of North America, she has the
honor of having been invited to play for the National Congress of all caril-
lonneurs at their annual meeting. She directs a variety of programs. Cur-
rently "Ring and Sing" is presented by the five handbell ensembles each
WORSHIP AND MUSIC
December, with Christmas carols sung between the selections. The same
groups of ringers present "Spring Ring" in May. The adult ringers partici-
pate in the yearly Mid-Carolinas Bell Festival in Charlotte in November.
The Sanctuary Choir has at least two special music offerings annually
during morning worship, one in December, and the other during Lent.
In December 1998, the Sanctuary Choir sang "Keyboards and Carols,"
arranged by Stephen Nielson and Ovid Young, duo pianists providing
accompaniment. Choir members participate in the interdenominational
mass choir for the annual community Thanksgiving-eve service. The Se-
nior High Singers and Ringers and Middle High Singers and Ringers
Opposite: The 2004 Sanctuary Choir. First row: Wanda Campbell, Jo Anne de la
Vega, Jayne Howe, Charlene Swilling, Betty Burrell, Leslie Lewis. Second row, stand-
ing: Mary McFarland, director; Suzanne McLean; Trip Stewart; Melanie Burch.
Second row, seated: B'Ann Vance, Janet Leissner, Dottie LaFar, Katie Clark, Arlena
Meek. Third row: JeffHudgins, Charlie Grissom, Tom Watson, Roger Hill, Charlie
Burrell, Ben Morrow, Brian Schroeder. Absent: Bill Sherrill, Jim Poag, Beverly Poag,
Laura Parson, Elaine Deason, Anna Renfro, Ellen Downey, Jan Jackson.
170 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
offer a youth vesper concert in the spring. The Sanctuary Choir, Senior
High Singers, and Middle School Singers combine to present a program
in the fellowship hall for informal functions.
"Lessons and Carols" and a special Christmas Eve service add at least
one children's choir to those already mentioned. All of the children's choirs
have a special Christmas Eve service. They also provide all of the music
for the eleven o'clock Palm Sunday service. At the close of the year, they
have a choir and talent program. Each June, thirty to forty church choir
members and directors attend the weeklong Music and Worship Confer-
ence in Montreat. Many children begin attending as rising fifth graders
and continue until their high school graduation.
Old church records mention Mrs. C. E. Adams as one of the first or-
ganists, followed by Miss Stella Holland. No salary was paid until 1906.
Mrs. W. Ralph Armstrong (Elizabeth) served as organist from 1946 to
1959. A graduate of the Guilmant Organ School in New York, she studied
at Juilliard School in New York City and at the Eastman School of Mu-
sic in Rochester, New York. A member of the American Guild of Organ-
ists, Mrs. Armstrong had taught organ at Limestone College in Gaffney,
Judy Planer and her father Dr. Doug Aldrich,
John Siler, organist, 1981-2002.
South Carolina, and at Bessie Tift College in Forsyth, Georgia. Mrs. Arm-
strong was considered among the finest organists in the nation and often
was asked to perform at national events.
In 1981, the talented and beloved John Siler became First Church's or-
ganist, serving for more than twenty years. He loved the quality organ
this church offered. With a Ph.D. in music education from the Univer-
sity of South Carolina, Dr. Siler is also a member of American Guild of
Organists. Dr. Siler, generous with his time and talent, was always avail-
able for ceremonies of the church and its parishioners. His organ concerts
were highly anticipated events in the Gaston County musical community.
Members of First Church of Gastonia honored Dr. Siler by celebrating
his eighteenth anniversary with a reception and a generous gift.
Timothy Belk became First Church's organist in 2003. A graduate of
the North Carolina School of the Arts, Belk received a North Carolina
Emerging Artist grant for postgraduate studies at the Conservatoire de Mu-
WORSHIP AND MUSIC
Timothy Belk, organist, 2003-.
sique in Geneva, Switzerland, where
he was a pupil of the renowned organ-
ist Lionel Rogg. He brought to the po-
sition a broad performing and service-
playing background as well as concert
organization skills, as demonstrated in
the creation of a new Music, Worship,
and Arts Series. The ambitious series,
underwritten with no expense to the
church, features renowned concert
artists. The special series began Octo-
ber 19, 2003, with Susan Landale, or-
ganist at Les Invalides, Paris; followed
by Nova Vocce, a women's ensem-
ble from Charlotte, on December 13,
2003. Concert pianist John Noel from
Houston, Texas, presented a beautiful
concert on January 18, 2004, and on
March 21, 2004, Gastonia native and mezzo-soprano Chriscynethia Floyd
was featured. San Francisco— based vocal ensemble Chanticleer performed
on November 24, 2004, and the world-famous Vienna Choir Boys brought
the year's series to its climax on February 5, 2005. This prestigious pro-
gram series of music, worship, and arts brings acclaim and opportunity
to First Church's musical commitment. "The series is not just for music,"
Tim Belk said, "the church has always had an history of excellence in mu-
sic, and this ambitious series reflects the Church's tradition."
First Presbyterian Church always had provided fine musical instru-
ments for the music program. The first organ, a Moeller instrument, was
dedicated in 1898 and had to be pumped by hand, usually by the sexton. It
is recorded that on one or two occasions, he had to be roused from a nap
at the conclusion of the sermon to start the organ in order that the pipes
be pumped and the last hymn sung. This organ was sold to the congre-
gation of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in 1914. It was later electrified and
was still in use in 1948. It had a very sweet tone, and some of our members
would occasionally visit St. Mark's to hear it.
174 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
A new Kimball pipe organ was installed at First Church in 1914, fol-
lowed by a Kilgen in 1934. As noted earlier, the wonderful Casavant organ
in today's Sanctuary was installed by Casavant Freres Limited of Quebec
in 1961 at a cost of $68,000. First Church members Mary Sexton Smyre
Templeton and her husband Elmer Templeton were instrumental in mak-
ing sure the church had "the finest organ available." Richard Peek, music
director and organist at Charlotte's Covenant Presbyterian Church, was
the church's consultant. The company was so proud of this installation
that it included a photograph of the organ on its 1962 Christmas card.
The chapel organ was built by Schlicker of Buffalo, New York, with Rich-
ard Peek as consultant again. Costing $14,874, the organ was premiered
at Montreat for its 1967 Summer Conference and then installed in the
From the beginning, the design of the church building had included a
set of bells, a carillon, which would gracefully sweep skyward. A carillon,
defined as a set of no fewer than twenty-five bells, dates to the fourteenth
century in Europe. Funds were unavailable for a carillon when the church
Confirmation class, April 9, 2000.
WORSHIP AND MUSIC I75
Installation of the carillon, 1972—1973. The 1895 cornerstone was lost behind the
carillon, only to be rediscovered in 2000 when the carillon was renovated.
Bells arriving for carillon after being refurbished.
was built in 1961. In 1972, a special committee headed by W. D. Lawson
III recommended the installation of a carillon in the sanctuary tower.
Lawson reported that the cost would be about $55,000, of which $33,235
had already been pledged. Memorial gifts for the carillon are recorded in
the Church Memorial Book in the Heritage Room. Other members of
the committee were John M. Akers, William A. Current, W. Duke Kim-
brell, B. Frank Matthews, T. Craig Watson, and Charles E. Zeigler. The
Memorial Carillon of forty-nine bells was designed and installed by the
Dutch firm of Eijsbouts Foundry. The Memorial Carillon was dedicated
on Sunday, November 25, 1973, with a dedicatory concert by carillonneur
Arie Abbenes from Asten, the Netherlands.
The largest bell weighs 1,411 pounds and measures forty and seven-
eighths inches in diameter. Four of the five largest bells bear biblical in-
scriptions. The fifth largest, weighing 496 pounds, is inscribed, "This car-
illon is dedicated to the glory of God, in loving memory of those who
from their labors rest." The bells gradually descend in size, with the
smallest weighing twenty-six pounds. The toll bell at the top of the caril-
lon tower originally rang in the tower of the old church building on Mari-
John Hebblethwaite, who was director of music and organist at First
Church when the carillon was installed, became the carillonneur and com-
posed a special piece of music called "Gastonia Change" for the carillon.
It was introduced on September 9, 1979. Hebblethwaite also produced
a recording of sacred music performed on the First Church Casavant
The carillon was completely renovated and rededicated on Sunday,
October 13, 2002. John Courter, one of America's foremost carillonneurs
and composers for the instrument, was commissioned by Dr. and Mrs.
Raul de la Vega to compose "Scottish Fantasy" for the rededication. First
Church members and guests were treated to a recital offered by Mary Mc-
Farland, church carillonneur, and Mr. Richard Watson, who completely
renovated the carillon. Guests sat outside on folding chairs in the delight-
ful afternoon fall weather.
Traditionally, a program of four carillon recitals is presented annually.
A guest artist is invited to play one program, and the remainder of the
WORSHIP AND MUSIC 177
The 2004 Communicants Class at "The Pad." Top row: The Rev. Patrick Perryman,
Brock Weston, Andrew Dickson, Brittany Hovis, William Quarles, Mary Houston
Matthews, Clara Owen, Christine Lanz, Evan Roberts, Ross Wilson, Brendan
Withers, William Wren, Kate Fitzmaurice, Dr. David Stoker. Second row: Anna
Vaughn, Alex Thomas, Sarah de la Vega, Kendall McCurry, Taylor Hill, Ashley
Hovis, Ali Williams. Third row: Jonathan Kimray, Ernest Sumner, Rob Stover,
Griffin Wise, Will Choquet.
programs are played by church carillonneurs, whose ranks have included
Helen Styers, Peggy Walton, Amelia Pritchett, Charlene Swilling, Jo Anne
de la Vega, Trip Stewart, Kim Petit, and Katie Clark.
Yet another beautiful instrument was given to the church in 2000,
when a Steinway grand piano finished in walnut was purchased for the
sanctuary. On September 17, pianist /composer Loonis McGlohon played
a dedicatory program. The Sanctuary Choir sang his composition 'Teach
Me Lord," and the Carol Choir sang one of his children's anthems.
The position of Director of Children's Music Ministries was created
in 1996. Janice Wilkerson, music specialist in the Gaston County Schools
A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Rev. Patrick Perryman
and twins Jack and Henry
Current, April 13, 2003.
David Pegram, First
and holder of an Orff certification, was
hired. Daniel Wynkoop, music instruc-
tor at Gaston Day School, replaced her
However, the music program has
sometimes been less than harmonious.
In the 1990s a committee appointed by
Session and chaired by Elaine Deason
was asked to study the adoption of a
new Presbyterian hymnal. Mrs. Dea-
son reported that the committee rec-
ommended new blue hymnals to be
used in the sanctuary and the chapel.
The old, red hymnbooks were to be
WORSHIP AND MUSIC
used in the fellowship hall and the various Sunday school classrooms.
Some elders objected because of the modern terminology used in some
hymns. Much of the objection to the new hymnal stemmed from modify-
ing or deleting old favorites that dealt with war — hymns such as the "Bat-
tle Hymn of the Republic" and "Onward Christian Soldiers." The Session
voted to accept the recommendation twenty- five to five. "I thought the
tone of the meeting was remarkable," session moderator John DeBevoise
wrote to the congregation in the church newsletter. "On an issue where
obviously a number of Elders had strong feelings, they addressed those
feelings with love and respect for one another. Now is the time for this
congregation to blend together our voices in unity, singing hymns with
praise to our Lord and God." Today both the red and blue hymnbooks
are used in the sanctuary and chapel.
Who are we, Lord,
that you have called us through these waters
and by the cross,
to be your people?
We are feeble, frail and fallen.
We are a stubborn and stiff necked people.
Yet, you love us in spite of this,
and you have drawn us to you
that we might be molded and shaped
into your likeness.
Lord, this is love so great
that it is almost more than we can bear.
This is grace so powerful
that it cannot be of ourselves,
but can only be your gift.
And so Lord we gather around the font
and see your hand at work.
We make promises as parents
and as your people,
that we know we cannot fulfill on our own.
l8o A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Laying on of hands, the ordination and installation of officers.
And we are reminded that that is precisely the point.
The grace that has fallen on us is not our own doing.
The power that moves in these waters has its source only in you.
As you brought your people through the waters,
and rested them safely on the other side,
so you have done for us.
You are our beginning and our ending,
our life and our meaning.
You are our God,
and we are your people.
Thanks be to God.
— A baptismal prayer for First Presbyterian Church ofGastonia,
given September 2001 by the Reverend John C. Pruitt, associate
WORSHIP AND MUSIC
Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the ever-
lasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth,
fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might
he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men
shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and
not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
— Isaiah 40:28—31
Christian denominations globally are reflecting a change in the church's
role today. The Presbyterian Church, like other denominations, is
struggling to maintain membership in the face of deteriorating growth in
church attendance and programs. The traditional church in the United
States, and also in Gastonia, from its earliest establishment was the center
of the community. The church came to house community programs that
grew the church membership. Now communities have diverse and numer-
ous activities, and such program opportunities are held in many institu-
tions other than the church.
First Church, Gastonia, by remaining loyal to traditional Christian
values and by accepting new attitudes toward the twenty-first-century
church, has continued to maintain her church programs. After-school
care, innovative youth and music programs, broadened adult educational
opportunities, and a choice in time and manner of worship are ways in
which First Presbyterian Church has combated the diminishing interest in
the global church in the last twenty- five years.
There are a number of current member families of First Church who
can look backward and forward at the same time. They are the second-,
third-, fourth-, and even fifth-generation members whose fathers, moth-
ers, grandparents, and great-grandparents devoted much of their lives to
the church. Perhaps First Church members got a glimpse of their future
on Sunday, September 28, 2003, when the more modern Joy in the Morn-
ing service and the more sedate, traditional eleven o'clock service were
combined for the first time. It resulted in a ninety-minute marathon mix-
ture of praise songs and stately hymns.
History and Archives Committee member Charlton Torrence gave this
There are so many members who have helped First Church in so
many ways and so many times, yet have not truly received their
deserved recognition. It would be impossible to name each individual
and his or her contributions to the church and not inadvertently
overlook a few very special members.
In growing from twenty-two members in 1882 to a present-day
membership of 1,315, many changes and decisions have been made,
most of them good, but not all. However, changes are what make
and help a church become a better church.
Some members have transferred to other churches, just as in 1882,
when sixteen members from Olney Presbyterian and four from
Union (and two on profession of faith) came together to begin First
Presbyterian Church of Gastonia.
First Presbyterian has always been a leader, as well as an inspiring
church. First Church is destined to become a greater church in the
community and outside it. Maybe, First Church is ready to accept
the challenge John DeBevoise made us in February 1995: "A one-
184 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
Left to right: the Westminster Confession (England, 1646), the Apostles' Creed (early
church), the Nicene Creed (fourth century).
million-dollar benevolence campaign to be conducted internally
among the members with no outside consultant!"
As First Presbyterian Church continues into its third century, the exact
nature of its future appears uncertain, but the love of the church, collec-
tive family values, and the desire to worship together are strong enough
to ensure that there will be a First Presbyterian Church of Gastonia for
years to come.
LOOKING FORWARD 185
Indeed, First Presbyterian's swooping roofline, polished fittings, and
full programs stand in amazing contrast to the original churches' ragged
congregations of Philippi, Corinth, and Ephesus. It was there in the Mid-
dle East and Africa that Peter and other apostles, and later St. Paul, drew
the theological architecture for the good news of the Gospel. So much of
the church has changed to the eye, and yet so little of the church at the
heart is different. Central to the church is the proclamation that Jesus
Christ is Lord. The ways in which First Presbyterian Church has made
that proclamation in the last 123 years is the history of First Presbyterian
Church. The ways in which First Presbyterian Church continues to make
that proclamation is the future of First Presbyterian Church.
l86 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
message from the pastor, i948
The Reverend Mr. I. M. Ellis
It is my earnest hope that from the reading of this history of our beloved
church will come a fresh appreciation of the spiritual heritage that is ours.
Sacrifice, love, and devotion have been manifested through the years by
pastors and members. The rediscovery of our accomplishments as they
have been blessed by God may also lead us to care intelligently and plan
wisely for the future. As someone has said, "Only those can care intelli-
gently about the future to whom the past is dear."
We cannot go forward on the momentum of past generations. We must
make our own history. If we are proud of the history of the past, then we,
the living, must through our own dedication and devotion move forward
to greater achievements in the days to come. This will only be possible as
the total membership realizes the responsibility that rests upon every one
who names the name of Christ, and who places his name upon the roll of
In these days of uncertainties and conflicting ideologies, we must look
into the future with confidence, realizing that the church has the answer
to the world's need, in a loving God, "who hath reconciled us to Him-
self by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation."
Therefore, let every one of us, deeply grateful for the past, and desiring to
be of service to Him in the present and future, renew our vows of dedica-
tion as we pray and sing:
/ love Thy Church, O God;
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
And graven on Thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend;
To her my cares and toils be given,
Till toils and cares shall end.
— Originally printed in the History of First Presbyterian
Church, by Hugh A. Query, 1948
188 A CHRISTIAN WITNESS
David Pegram, who took many of the photographs for this book, has
been a member of First Church since 1971. He and his wife Lucille, who
were members of New Hope Baptist Church at the time, were driving
by First Church one day when he turned to Lucille, and said, "Some-
thing is making me go to church here today." They turned in the drive-
way and went to services that day and have been attending here ever
since. Pegram has photographed our church life and has served as the
official driver on many trips by the Trotters and on other occasions.
Robert Ragan of Charlotte, son of Jocelyn Sikes and Caldwell Ragan
and a distinguished author in his own right, contributed his experience
as a Presbyterian and former First Church member and gave excellent
advice on research procedures. The author is grateful to Mr. Ragan.
Geraldine Johnston, an authority on grammar and punctuation and an
active member of First Church, edited the draft for grammatical cor-
Lisbet Nielsen has been a willing and consistent support in both re-
search and production for A Christian Witness.
Cookie Brenner, chairman of the Committee of History and Archives,
has steered the committee with exceptional wisdom, understanding of
the project, and a clear focus. Her untiring efforts and zealous dedica-
tion and determination to have an outstanding history that is accurate
and inclusive are worthy of note. It can unequivocally be said that with-
out her remarkable wise leadership, this book would not be the out-
standing history the committee is pleased to present.
Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of A Christian Wit-
ness. The book committee regrets any errors which may remain.
The Committee of History and Archives
1847 North Carolina legislature creates Gaston County.
1872 Railroad relocates to Gastonia from Dallas, North Caro-
lina, creating a trading crossroads.
1875 The Reverend W. B. Corbett conducts services from rail-
1875— 1882 Services continue from the Falls Hotel, in an old store-
house, and in the old Gastonia Academy until the little
First Church is built near Long Avenue.
1877 Gastonia incorporates, population 200.
1882 Mecklenburg Presbytery with Union and Olney Churches
organize new Presbyterian Church, the First Presbyterian
Church of Gastonia, July 16.
Captain J. Q. Holland, first clerk of Session.
First organ was a reed instrument.
1882-1884 The Reverend J. J. Kennedy, supply pastor.
1882-1899 The Reverend M. McG. Shields, pastor, 1897-1904, writes
first church history in 1899, covering 1882-1899. Only two
copies remain; one is now on exhibit in Heritage Room.
His son, Ernest Shields II, writes "Oh, Davidson," the
fight song for Davidson College.
1883 Membership 33, contributions $1,050.
A 35x50 brick church seating four hundred and costing
$1,500 is dedicated at what is now 211 W. Long Avenue.
1884 Mrs. A. M. Smyre, first president of Ladies' Aide Society.
1884-1885 The Reverend L. R. McCormick, supply pastor.
1886 The Reverend W. E. Mcllwaine accepts call as first pas-
tor for First Presbyterian Church half of his time, with the
other half at New Hope Presbyterian Church.
1889 Mrs. R. C. G. Love, first president of Ladies Home and
Foreign Missionary Society.
1890 Membership 141, contributions $1,229.
1891 The Reverend C. W. Robinson accepts call as first full-
Miss Lizzie Adams, lady manager of Children's Missionary
Society. Tablet in her honor on display in Heritage Room.
Membership 170, contributions $3,175.
1893 Membership 205, contributions $2,139.
1893-1896 The Reverend R. P. Smith accepts call as pastor. Pastor
during construction of Marietta Street Church.
1893-1897 Walter R. Lingle, assistant to Rev. R. P. Smith. He does
home mission work in Gaston County and later is presi-
dent of the Assembly's Training School for lay workers,
moderator of the General Assembly, and president of
1895 Construction of Marietta Street Church. It is of "pressed"
red brick from Washington, D.C. Marietta Street Church
is completed in nine months.
1896 The Charlotte Observer notes that the Reverend R. P.
Smith of First Presbyterian Church in Gastonia writes a
monthly church newsletter and suggests other churches
should consider publishing a newsletter.
1896-1904 The Reverend M. McG. Shields accepts call as pastor.
1897 Marietta Street Church debt is retired.
1898 Moeller organ purchased for Marietta Street Church. The
Moeller organ, which was dedicated in 1898, had to be
pumped by hand.
Dr. C. E. Adams is named superintendent of Sabbath
school after resignation of Mr. J. A. Boyd. Dr. Adams
remains superintendent until Sunday morning Christian
education becomes known as Sunday school.
194 HISTORICAL TIMELINE
1905 Dr. R. C. Anderson accepts call as pastor.
Dr. Anderson organizes the Men's Bible Class, later renamed
the Henderlite Class in honor of Dr. J. H. Henderlite.
1909 Miss Alice Daniels works diligently to organize Piedmont
Chapel, a mission in a mill village off Broad Street. It thrives
and continues successfully until 1970s, when village homes
are replaced by commerce.
1912 Dr. J. H. Henderlite accepts call as pastor.
1914 Mr. and Mrs. Thomas L. Craig donate the first Kimball
1915 North Carolina Presbyterian Synod meets at First Pres-
byterian Church, Gastonia. This is quite an honor to host
the Synod. A photo of the meeting is on display in
1917 United States enters World War I.
1918 The Reverend George Gillespie becomes Dr. Hender-
lite 's first assistant pastor. This indicates the growth of the
church and the need for additional administration.
1920 Mrs. S. A. Kinley, president of Woman's Auxiliary.
Woman's Auxiliary institutes Ladies Church Circle program
as adopted by the General Assembly. Twelve circles are
Membership 800, contributions $55,076.
1923 Mr. Dendy serves as first Scoutmaster.
1923-1924 Mrs. W. Y. Gardner collects Octagon Soap wrappers to
finance furnishings (flatware and china) for the church
kitchen. China is on display in Heritage Room.
1924 Membership 928, contributions $53,092.
1926 Dr. Joe Overmyer, beloved musician, promotes music
1927 A service is held to honor six couples (members of the
church) observing their golden wedding anniversaries: Mr.
and Mrs. John F. Jackson, Mr. and Mrs. E. Meek Adams,
Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Smyre, Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Spencer,
Rev. and Mrs. J. N. McLean, and Mr. and Mrs. R. R. Ray.
HISTORICAL TIMELINE 195
1927 Membership 975, contributions $50,649.
1929 Stock market crash.
1929-1934 Dr. Henderlite's salary is reduced at his request, reflecting
economic foreboding in textile center.
1930s First Presbyterian Church participates in Orthopedic
1930 Mrs. D. E. McConnell begins Cradle Roll department
(first toddler Sunday school).
1931 The Reverend C. G. McKnight, music director.
Woman's Auxiliary collects $7.00 to furnish Barium
Springs Orphanage with celery for Thanksgiving dinner.
1934 Deacons adopt rotary system.
1935 Mr. C. C. Kimbrell takes Troop 11 and serves many distin-
guished years as Scoutmaster.
1936-1948 Mr. J. E. Lindsey, beloved church sexton, serves with
1937 Miss Ola Moton, city missionary. Church sponsors era of
1938 Church calls Rev. I. M. Ellis as associate pastor, youth
minister, and choir director.
Membership 1,041, contributions $28,470.
Woman's Auxiliary, Mrs. L. N. Patrick, president, pledges
nearly $800 for new church carpet. The amount was paid
in full in two years.
1940 The Reverend I. M. Ellis accepts call as pastor.
Membership 1,193, contributions $27,497.
1940s Mrs. George V. Patterson teaches Nellie Warren Bible
Class for more than twenty-five years.
Mr. D. R. LaFar Jr., elder, serves Synod and Davidson
College as vice chair of Board of Trustees for many years.
Continues distinguished service to local and regional
Mr. T. M. Mackorell, Boy Scoutmaster.
I96 HISTORICAL TIMELINE
1940 Mrs. Emmett Morrison encourages Bible education in
1941 Miss Bess Jackson becomes church secretary.
Church remodels sanctuary at a cost of $35,000. Choir
moves to front of sanctuary. A large wooden door rolls
down to allow part of the sanctuary to be used as a Sunday
Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, December 7.
1941-1946 Saturday night activities at Church for USO. Woman's
Auxiliary sponsors entertainment and socials.
1942 United States enters World War II.
Martha Enck, first full-time director of music.
Katherine McChesney, first full-time director of religious
Membership 1,210, contributions $50,316.
1944 Mr. William R. Sparrow, first president of Men's Fellow-
1948 Church publishes History of First Presbyterian Church by
Hugh A. Query.
Four downtown churches establish a Christian Day
School, originally meeting at the Methodist Church. Later
each main-line church establishes its own program. This is
probably the seed for Presbyterian Weekday School.
1950 Korean War.
1950s Nellie Warren Bible Class thrives. Many women contribute
to church programs through participation in this class.
Well-established mission at Piedmont Chapel grows with
prominent leaders from First Church: Mr. and Mrs. Fred
Moss, Mrs. Jerry Shive, Mr. Wade Williford, Mrs. John
Wilkins, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gordon, Mr. John Parks.
1952 Dr. Harry M. Moffett accepts call as pastor.
1954 Radio ministry begins and continues until 2001.
1955 Fred A. Ratchford begins service as clerk of Session, serves
long tenure totaling ten years.
HISTORICAL TIMELINE 197
1955 Herald Class sponsors fundraising sale of quilt blocks.
Each block sells for $0.25. Quilt is on display in Heritage
Room. Quilt is then auctioned off. Herald and Nellie War-
ren Sunday school classes merge to become the Women's
Wednesday Evening Prayer Service becomes Downtown
Noon Prayer Service.
Church acquires 10.95 acres for $32,580 from Ratchford
1957 Congregation votes to relocate physical plant to Kendrick
Road (now Garrison Boulevard).
Church acquires two adjoining smaller parcels of land
from Owens family.
Vanguard Bible Class changes its name to Eunice Warren
Bible Class in honor of Mrs. W Y. Warren. Her photo-
graph is on display in Heritage Room.
1959 Mrs. J. H. Matthews gifts White Chapel Handbells.
Elders adopt Rotary System.
i960 Mrs. Dane S. Rhyne resigns as church hostess after thirty
Church holds groundbreaking for new structure, April 10.
1961 Vietnam War.
Church publishes The First Presbyterian Church ofGasto-
nia, NC: A History by Charles F. Daniel, a sequel to the
Church moves to Garrison Boulevard. Congregation holds
services in fellowship hall until sanctuary is completed.
Congregation honors Mr. Harry Rutter for serving as elder
for fifty years.
1962 Presbyterian Weekday School established; Ellen F. Bowen
First wedding in new sanctuary: Jennie Winget and Gene
I98 HISTORICAL TIMELINE
1964 Congregation holds first Maundy Thursday service.
1968 Dr. James G. Stuart accepts call as pastor.
Mrs. J. C. Taylor (Nonie) begins use of Dewey decimal
system for church library.
1969 Margaret Summerell, first woman elder.
1970 Mr. Dan C. Howe, first financial secretary.
1970s Pastor's Aide Program flourishes. Mrs. Ralph Falls
Leon Alexander, Craig Watson steer major fund-raising
campaign for church capital improvements.
1971 Congregation begins Ritual of Friendship.
1972 Mothers' Morning Out begins.
1973 Church installs carillon. Meals on Wheels organizes at
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Presbyterians participate.
1974 First Christmas Eve candlelight service held in sanctuary.
Student Loan Fund established by anonymous donor, apart
from scholarship opportunities.
1975 Dr. Peter Carruthers gives first children's sermon.
Sunday 9:00 a.m. service starts for summer months.
1976 First pictorial directory.
1977 Presbyterian Endowment Trust (PET) is established.
1980 Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Robinson donate home on New Hope
Road to church. Proceeds from sale added to Presbyterian
1980s Five downtown churches hold first Thanksgiving-eve
1981 Session directs purchase of first church van.
Through sealed bids, congregation purchases pews from
Piedmont Chapel, formerly pews in the Marietta Street
Church. Two are in Heritage Room.
1982 Covenant Village opens.
HISTORICAL TIMELINE 199
1982 Women of the Church publish One Hundred Years of
1984 Session establishes permanent Personnel Committee.
Church office installs first computer, gift of Parkdale
Heritage Campaign funds capital improvements.
Membership 1,666, contributions $536,181.
1985 Missions program initiates Two-Cents-a-Meal monthly
First Lay Renewal weekend.
Presbyterians join Holy Trinity Lutheran Church to
sponsor Vietnamese refugee family.
1986 Mr. and Mrs. David W. Royster Jr. donate Greyhound
1987 Susie and George W. Ragan Spiritual Enrichment Fund is
established to sponsor noted speakers for spiritual enrich-
1988 Session approves study of columbarium.
Stuff 'n' Study begins on Wednesday nights.
Monthly communion services begin at 9:00 a.m.
1990 Dr. John DeBevoise accepts call as pastor.
Home Mission program builds first Habitat for Humanity
House, "House of Faith."
Church Session authorizes publication of first annual re-
port, which is given to congregation. This report includes
year's work of all committees. Copy available in Heritage
Caroline Gourly, Presbytery Executive, notes that First
Presbyterian Church pays 10 percent of Presbytery budget.
Christmas Eve 11:00 p.m. communion service begins.
1991 DCE Allison Lineberger implements afterschool program.
Guidelines for officers prohibit Session and Diaconate
200 HISTORICAL TIMELINE
199 1 Barium Springs Board of Regents confers title of regent
emeritus on Mr. Bynum Carter.
1992 Task Force on Older Adults.
Session confers pastor emeritus title on Dr. James G.
Session discusses Presbytery request for development of
new church in southeast Gastonia (which became South-
minster Presbyterian). Session endorses study.
1993 Session rejects Family Life Center concept.
1994 Super Cupboard opens on regular weekday basis.
Second Habitat House opens.
Dr. John Leith is scholar in residence for two months,
financed by Ragan Spiritual Enrichment Funds.
Session endorses aiding Third Street Presbyterian Church
when city renovation relocates church to North Highland
Street. PET contributes $300,000 to construction of new
1995 Presbytery opens local counseling program, Samaritan
Counseling Center, now located in Cherryville.
Administration sponsors fourteen-week course for officer
Total congregation contributions pass $1 million mark.
Session approves establishing Stephen Ministry program.
Record attendance on Easter Sunday.
Presbyterian Women publish Dinner Chimes.
Church hosts "100 Men Who Cook" fellowship, pro-
grams, and dinners by Third Street Presbyterian. These
events meet in the fellowship hall.
Presbyterian Women receive honor-roll certificate for their
Blanket the World contributions.
1996 WSOC-TV awards Nine Who Care plaque for Super
Dr. David Stoker accepts call as pastor.
HISTORICAL TIMELINE 201
1997 Dr. Stoker arrives in Gastonia. First sermon, March 12.
Church provides monetary aid to First Presbyterian
Church, Grand Forks, North Dakota, for flood relief.
Church provides new paraments for First Presbyterian
Church in Greenville, North Carolina, for those lost due
to Hurricane Fran.
Outside consultant presents long-range plan for church.
Building and Grounds Committee orders new chapel sound
system and new cushions for sanctuary and chapel pews.
Session employs Pat Morrow as temporary business admin-
Session approves Vision 2000 study.
Session honors Dorothy McKenzie for her twenty years as
director of Presbyterian Weekday School.
Elders work with existing committees and senior minis-
ter for implementation of new Session model. Report and
schedules are published in Newsline.
Suggested committee structure reduces standing commit-
1998 Church accepts Salvation Army Good Neighbor Award.
PET has received a total of $1.1 million from the Carroll
Session employs two youth directors.
Nursery renovation is completed. New computer system is
installed. Funds are appropriated for organ renovation and
paving parking lot.
Received approximately $1,267,658 from Frank Davis
Dr. Wilson Rhoton becomes interim associate minister.
Session approves purchasing a twenty-one-passenger bus for
1999 Building and Grounds Committee installs new sanctuary
202 HISTORICAL TIMELINE
1999 Session adopts new format for Nominating Committee:
two from Session, one from Diaconate, four from
Linda Dixon retires as church secretary.
Session employs Pat Morrow as permanent church
2000 Carillon tower is renovated to accommodate care of bells.
2001 Terrorists attack United States, September n.
Rev. John Pruitt and Rev. Patrick Perryman conduct prayer
services in sanctuary immediately after terrorist attacks.
Session joins Confessing Church Movement. (Withdraws
2002 Membership 1,482, approved budget $1.37 million.
Memorial gifts honoring J. Caswell Taylor (died February
2002) renovate Church Library.
Session approves Joy in the Morning service at 8:45 a.m.;
time later changed to 9:00 a.m. Church adds fellowship
time with refreshments preceding 11:00 a.m. service.
Session approves establishment of Committee of History
and Archives as subcommittee of Building and Grounds
Marion Ellis engaged as author of First Presbyterian
Session approves former audiovisual room as Heritage
2003 Membership 1,482, approved budget $1,463 million.
Session contracts with catering service for Wednesday
Prayer Lunch and evening meals.
2004 Fourth Habitat House is dedicated in August.
Session approves participation in Interfaith Hospitality
2004 Membership 1,315, approved budget $1,562 million.
2005 Dr. Stoker announces his intention to Session to seek
HISTORICAL TIMELINE 203
Members of First Presbyterian Who Have Become Ministers
David M. Cameron
Mary Faith Carson
Julie McM. Ciine
Ernest W. Davis
William G. Forrest
Gary M. Fulton
Joanne R. Hull
R. Manfred Johnston IV
Frank McG. Kincaid
David R. Lytle
J. Houston Matthews III
Neely D. McCarter
Augustus A. McLean
William (Bill) Owens
Pamela M. Patrick (Cole)
Peggy K. Patrick (Turner)
Peggy Melissa Patrick (Hauser)
Robert W Ratchford
E. R. Rinehart
Clyde O. Robinson Jr.
B. O. Shannon
H. W. Shannon
Robert James (Bobby Jim) Wilkins
Tommy Lee Wilson Jr.
Presbyterian Church Members Who Have Received
the Silver Beaver Award of the Boy Scouts of America
M. T Cameron
J. Bynum Carter
Wesley A. Daniel
Ralph Dickson Sr.
Martha D. Eddins
W B. Garrison
Joseph E. Gettys
W Alex Hall
W Duke Kimbrell
D. R. LaFar Jr.
Dan S. LaFar Sr.
David R. LaFar III
James H. McKenzie
James C. Poag Jr.
Gordon Quarles Jr.
Fred L. Smyre
Clerks of the Session
Capt. J. Q. Holland 1885-1893
B. G. Bradley 1893-1897
Capt. J. Q. Holland 1897-1911
J. A. Hunter 1911-1929
John O. Rankin 1929-1931
Sam A. Robinson 1931-1942
B. T. Dickson 1942-1946
Robert A. Gordon 1946-1947
Hugh A. Query 1948-1952
James G. Jackson 1952-1955
Fred A. Ratchford 1955-1962, 1969-1972, 1975
M. T. Cameron 1963-1964
John C. Mason Jr. 1965-1968
Ralph S. Robinson Jr. I973 _I 974> 1976-1978
Minor R. Adams Jr. 1979-1981
James B. Garland Jr. 1982-1984
Fred L. Smyre 1985-1986
Emily G. Simpson 1987-1988, 1995-1996, 1999-2001
Robert E. Sumner III 1989
William L. Craig Jr. 1990
Sarah A. Abernethy 1991-1992
Philip R. Williams 1993
Douglas L. Stover 1994
John W Calhoun 1997-1998
Barbara H. Voorhees 2002
Susan T. McCurry 2003
W Gordon Quarles Jr. 2004-2005
Associate Ministers of First Presbyterian Church
George R. Gillespie 1918-1924
Joe Overmyer 1926-1934
C. G. McKnight 1931-1937
Irving M. Ellis 1937-1940
Linwood Cheshire 1944-1946
J. N. Brown 1954-1966
John Kimbirl 1966— 1970
Ralph Bright 1970-1973
Peter C. (Pete) Carruthers 1974-1978
Stephen W. Caddell 1978-1984
Frank Mayes 1980-1989
Keith Uffman 1986-1989
Ronald J. Gilreath 1991-1999
Robert Messick-Watkins 1992-1997
Gary Fulton 1996-1997
John C. Pruitt 1999-2002
Patrick H. Perryman 2000—
Directors of Religious/ Christian Education
Irving M. Ellis, DRE
Helen Hubbard, DRE
Katherine McChesney (Mackie), DRE
Mary Olive Walker (McChesney), DRE
Eubank Taylor, DCE
Gayla Sandel Woody, DCE
Ernie Davis, DCE
Allison Gordon (Lineberger), DCE
Reverend Keith Uffman
Reverend Rob Messick-Watkins
Allison Gordon (Lineberger)
Reverend Ron Gilreath
Reverend John Pruitt
Reverend Patrick Perryman
Directors of Music
Edgar Love 1926
Joe Overmyer 1926-1934
C. G. McKnight 1931-1937
Irving M. Ellis 1937-1940
Helen Hubbard (Kemp) 1940-1942
Martha Enck (Loftin) 1942-1943
Emma Binns (Bercaw) 1943-1945
Roy Wheeler 1945-1948
Mrs. E. M. Dozier 1949-1950
Mildred Romer 1950-1951
Her f Applewhite 1953— 1955
Edith Warren 1955-1969
John Hebblethwaite 1970-1976
Hughes Huffman 1976-1979
Janet Graham 1980-1984
Marcia Sommers (Mau) 1985-1993
Jeff Weiss 1994-1998
Mary F. McFarland 1998-
Presidents of the Presbyterian Women s Organizations
The original Women's Group began in 1884 and was called Ladies' Aide
Society. The first president was Mrs. A. M. Smyre. In 1887, the name
was changed to Ladies' Home and Foreign Missionary Society. During
the time this name was in use (1884— 1896), the following women served
as presidents: Mrs. McCormick, Mrs. R. C. G. Love, Mrs. Mclwaine,
Mrs. R. N. Wilson, Mrs. Alexander, Mrs. J. F. Love, and Mrs. D. E.
McConnell. In 1905, Ladies' Missionary Society president was Mrs. Lela
Women of the Church began in 1920. In 1989-1990, the organization
was renamed Presbyterian Women. The following ladies have served as
*Mrs. S. A. Kindley
*Mrs. G. W Ragan
*Mrs. W. Y. Warren
*Miss Mary Ragan
*Mrs. P. R. Falls
*Mrs. Norman Morrow
*Mrs. Harry Rutter
*Mrs. J. L. Kendrick
*Mrs. C. I. Loftin
*Mrs. W. F. Michael
*Mrs. L. N. Patrick
*Mrs. S. E. Morrison
*Mrs. Caldwell Ragan
*Mrs. Vivian Rankin
*Mrs. Von W Hollinger
*Mrs. W L. Wilson
*Mrs. O. Douglas Boyce
*Mrs. Hugh A. Query
*Mrs. J. N. Summerell
*Mrs. T L. Wilson
Mrs. W. H. Jarman
Presidents of the Presbyterian Women's Organizations (continued)
*Mrs. E. L. Patterson 1960-1961
*Mrs. W. L. Wetzell Jr. 1961-1962
*Mrs. Branson Zeigler 1963-1964
*Mrs. O. Douglas Boyce 1964-1965
*Mrs. James B. Garland 1965-1966
Mrs. Verne Shive 1967-1968
Mrs. Roy Kelly 1968-1969
*Mrs. Fred Lytle 1969-1971
Mrs. Neale Patrick 1971— 1972
Mrs. Ben Drake 1972-1973
Mrs. H. S. Mackie 1973-1974
*Mrs. George W. Ragan 1974-1975
*Mrs. C. JeffMcArver 1975-1976
Mrs. George Miller 1976-1977
Mrs. John Peden 1977-1978
Mrs. Banks Bolin 1978-1979
Mrs. William H. Keith 1979-1980
Mrs. David H. Simpson 1980-1981
*Mrs. Glendall King 1981-1982
Mrs. W. Danford Wilson 1983-1984
Mrs. Ben W Knauss 1984-1985
Mrs. J. Ben Morrow 1985-1986
Mrs. P. W. Aycock Jr. 1986-1987
Mrs. Garland Atkins 1987-1988
Mrs. D. Pat Craig 1988-1990
Mrs. Donald Barringer 1990-1991
Mrs. Algie Wilson 1991-1992
Mrs. C. Ellis Fisher 1992-1993
Mrs. Charles Wetzell 1993-1994
Mrs. Tom D. Efird 1994-1995
Mrs. M. Lance Brenner 1995-1996
Mrs. R. William Kelly 1996-1997
Mrs. William P. Adams 1997-1998
Mrs. Franklin Molen 1998-1999
Mrs. William Pritchett
Mrs. Robert Sumner
Mrs. David Ratchford
Mrs. C. Daniel Page
Mrs. Steven Williams
Mrs. Jeffrey Owens
Honorary Life Memberships
Honorary Life Membership in the Presbyterian Women organization is
conferred upon an individual in recognition of faithful service in some
area of the church's work.
No awards were given 1981-1989.
*Mrs. J. H. Henderlite
*Mrs. C. I. Loftin
*Mrs. G. W. Ragan
*Mrs. S. A. Kindley
*Mrs. Von Hollinger
*Mrs. Harry Rutter
*Mrs. W. F. Michael
*Mrs. D. E. McConnell
*Miss Bess Jackson
*Mrs. V. G. Grier
*Mrs. P. R. Falls
*Mrs. G. V. Patterson
*Mrs. J. F. Thompson
*Mrs. L. N. Patrick
*Mrs. J. L. Kendrick
*Mrs. W G. Rhyne
Honorary Life Memberships (continued)
*Mrs. W. Y. Warren 1955
*Mrs. Norman Morrow 1955
*Mrs. R. A. Gordon 1956
*Mrs. W. L. Wilson 1956
*Miss Mildred Lineberger 1957
*Mrs. S. A. Robinson 1957
*Mrs. Vivian Rankin 1958
*Mrs. J. G. Jackson 1958
*Mrs. S. J. Hood 1959
*Mrs. R. C. McLean 1959
*Mrs. Harry Cobb i960
*Mrs. J. H. Matthews i960
*Mrs. Hugh Query 1961
*Mrs. J. N. Summerell 1961
*Mrs. T. L. Wilson 1962
*Mrs. E. L. Patterson 1962
*Miss Georgia Copeland 1963
*Mrs. T. J. Abernathy 1963
*Mrs. John A. Wilkins 1964
*Miss Ola Margaret Moton 1964
*Mrs. R. O. Crawford 1965
*Mrs. Fred Spurrier 1965
Mrs. James F. Ormand 1966
*Mrs. A. L. Sudduth 1966
*Mrs. Ralph H. Falls 1967
*Mrs. Fred M. Moss 1967
*Mrs. Mary R. Carpenter 1967
*Mrs. I. W Spake 1968
*Mrs. Dane S. Rhyne 1968
*Mrs. Ed Adams 1969
*Mrs. O. Douglas Boyce 1969
*Mrs. J. Sid Winget 1969
*Mrs. James L. Taylor 1970
*Mrs. Walter Kluttz 1970
*Mrs. Charles Thompson 1971
*Mrs. C. C. Kimbrell 1971
*Mrs. D. R. LaFar Jr. 1971
*Mrs. W. L. Wetzell Jr. 1972
Mrs. W. H. Jarman 1972
*Mrs. J. L. Hart 1973
Mrs. George Miller 1973
*Mrs. J. L. Barnett 1974
Mrs. H. S. Mackie 1974
*Mrs. W. J. Carroll 1975
*Mrs. Jerry Shive 1975
*Mrs. Leonora Taylor 1975
*Mrs. W. B. Garrison 1976
*Mrs. Graydon Home 1976
*Mrs. Ralph Robinson Sr. 1976
Mrs. Benjamin Drake 1977
*Mrs. Caldwell Ragan 1977
*Mrs. George Ragan 1977
*Mrs. Margaret Beam 1978
*Mrs. Amos C. Johnstone 1978
Mrs. John C. Peden 1978
*Mrs. F. Irvin Hull 1979
*Mrs. D. R Ragan 1979
*Mrs. T. Craig Watson 1979
*Mrs. Ralph Kendrick 1980
*Mrs. Minor R. Adams 1980
*Mrs. Sam M. Stewart 1980
*Miss Justus Cathey 1981
*Mrs. W. R. Sparrow 1981
*Mrs. JeffMcArver 1981
*Miss Jennie Craig Watson 1989
*Miss Mary John Howe 1989
Mrs. L. Neale Patrick 1990
*Mrs. Glendall King 1990
Honorary Life Memberships (continued)
*Mrs. James Boyce Garland
Mrs. M. T. Cameron
Mrs. Henry Cabaniss
Mrs. D. Pat Craig
Mrs. William H. Keith
*Mrs. William C. Ratchford
*Mrs. George M. Wood
Mrs. Banks E. Bolin
Mrs. W J. McConnaughey
*Mrs. John D. McLean
*Mrs. Blake Breitenhirt
Mrs. Philip R. Williams
Mrs. W Danford Wilson
Mrs. Robert A. Blake
Miss Jean Marie Torrence
*Mrs. Branson E. Zeigler
Mrs. Tom D. Efird
Mrs. G. Edward Lewis
Mrs. David H. Simpson
Mrs. W B. Abernethy
Mrs. M. Lance Brenner
Mrs. Robert P. Barringer
Mrs. Tom Cory
Mrs. William H. Kelly
Mrs. Harry W. Kiser
Mrs. Roy Kelly
Mrs. Ned Marvin
Miss Ruth Rice
Mrs. W. W. Dickson
Mrs. James McKenzie
Mrs. Franklin Molen
Mrs. Roy P. Warren
Mrs. Latane H. Ware
First Presbyterian Church War Veterans
This list of veterans reflects those who were members of First Presbyte-
rian Church at the time of their service to our country. The Committee
of History and Archives regrets any omissions or errors.
Robert S. Abernathy
T. J. Abernathy
Thomas J. Abernathy Jr.
William E. Abernathy
Charles W. Adams
David S. Adams
Lacy E. Adams
Robert L. Adams Jr.
Simeon Huey Adams
Arthur A. Armstrong Jr.
J. Raleigh Armstrong
James C. Axon
William D. Belton
William D. Belton Jr.
Wylie W Bindeman Jr.
Charles K. Boren
Isabel M. Bradford
C. D. Bradley
John E. Brison Jr.
Thomas M. Brockman Jr.
Clifford T. Bull
J. Ralph Bull Jr.
Harold A. Bustle
Walter J. Carroll
Dr. R. S. Clinton
Paul D. Combs
George Robert Currence
John L. Currence
Robert Brandon Currence
William M. Davidson
Donald H. Davis
Brice T. Dickson Jr.
Tommie F. Dickson
Walter W Dickson
A. Wilson Dunn Jr.
Paul L. Erlewein
George Worth Falls
John Rankin Falls
J. Hay Fant
Alvin L. Ferguson
Charles M. Ferguson Jr.
John Anderson Ferguson
Mervyn L. Filipponi
James H. Findlay
William H. Ford
A. Kenneth Froneberger
Warren Y. Gardner Jr.
James Boyce Garland
First Presbyterian Church
Peter Woods Garland Jr.
David E. Gillespie
John David Glenn
Robert Ray Glenn
Robert A. Grier
Roger M. Grier
Thomas G. Grier
V. G. Grier
Charles L. Grigg
William G. Grigg
Wiley (Ted) Harrison
Charles B. Hawkins
William Lewis Hawkins
James H. Henderlite Jr.
Richard H. Henderson
James W Holland
Ruth M. Hood
William B. Hood
Dan Charlton Howe
James Lamar Howe
Cooper A. HufFstetler
Lawrence N. Huffstetler
James L. Humphrey
Dr. W B. Hunter
J. A. Hunter Jr.
James Robert Hunter
Herbert C. Jackson
John Alfred Jackson
Richard R. Jarman
A. C. Jones Jr.
War Veterans (continued)
David Andrew Jones
James Latimer Jones
Laurence G. Jones
Robert Y. Kelly
J. Ralph Kendrick Jr.
Martha L. Kendrick
Curtis C. Kimbrell Jr.
W. Duke Kimbrell
Paul P. Kincaid Jr.
S. A. Kindley
Allen G.King Jr.
W D. Lawson Jr.
W D. Lawson III
T. E. Leavitt
Joseph S. Leeper
H. Price Lineberger Jr.
John Frank Loftin
Samuel D. Love
William T.Love Jr.
Harold E. Martin
John C. Mason III
Eugene R. Matthews
J. Houston Matthews Jr.
J. Houston Matthews III
Edward T. McConnell
Samuel McKay Jr.
James Frank McKee
William F. McKee
Robert E. McLean Jr.
James E. McNair Jr.
David A. McQueen
Dossie K. Miller
Jasper Miller Jr.
Mary W. Miller
Gene H. Minges
W. T. Mingesjr.
J. Stoney Moore
J. Holland Morrow
Shannon W. Murphy Jr.
Edward M. Parrott
L. Neale Patrick Jr.
Ralph G. Patrick Jr.
William Henry Patrick Jr.
William M. Patrick
Arthur W. Patsch
John C. Peden
Britton Pressley Jr.
D. P. Ragan Jr.
Daniel C. Ragan
Henry M. Rankin
James Thomas Rankin
John O. Rankin Jr.
John O. Rankin III
Joseph T. Rankin
Robert Wray Rankin
Samuel A. Rankin
W T. Rankin
Robert E. Ratchford
Thomas A. Ratchford
Dr. Ralph Ray
Dane Samuel Rhyne Jr.
Julius R. Rhyne
Malcolm S. Rhyne
Fred D. Riddle
Clarence E. Roberts Jr.
WilliamS. Roberts Jr.
Amos Quentin Robinson
Charles Mebane Robinson
Charles Mebane Robinson Jr.
Elbridge C. Robinson
J. Lee Robinson
S. A. Robinson Jr.
Theodore L. Shelton
Daniel R. Shields Jr.
Lowell A. Shive
Verne E. Shive
William A. Sifford
Fred L. Smyre Jr.
Fred L. (Rick) Smyre III
L. Lewis Sowell
Arthur M. Spencer Jr.
Fred W Spurrier Jr.
First Presbyterian Church
Powell H. Spurrier
Blake Boyd (Billy) Starnes
John Franklin Starnes
Thomas A. Stewart
Roger A. Stowe
Samuel O. Strange
Alvin L. Sudduth Jr.
William T. Talley
Robah S. Tate
J. Caswell Taylor
James L. Taylor
Hunter Elmore Thomas
Richard Earle Thomas
Thomas F. Thompson
J. W. Timberlake Jr.
R. L. Todd
Laura May Tomlin
William H. Tomlin
Charlton K. Torrence Sr.
Charlton K. Torrence Jr.
Clarence E. Underwood
Albert Van Sleen
War Veterans (continued)
Henry M. Van Sleen Jr.
Robert Van Sleen
Frank L. Virgin
Archie Wakefield Jr.
Ernest R. Warren
William Y.Warren Jr.
Charles A. Wetzell
Lee M. Wetzell
Edith K. Whisnant
Hugh Edward White
Joseph Raymond Whitesides
Joseph Roy Whitesides
John A. Wilkins Jr.
Wade Hampton Williford
Clyde A. Wilson
Thomas Lee Wilson
William Danford Wilson
Earle Caldwell Workman
Thomas Reese Workman
Charles E. Zeigler
Edgar F. Clemmer
F. Kelly Clemmer
Henry A. Clemmer
P. D. Clemmer
William B. Clemmer
William Humphrey Jr.
William H. Jarman
MEMBER PRESENTLY IN SERVICE
Norman P. Morrow Jr.
WORLD WAR I
Charles W. Adams
WORLD WAR II
John Frank Loftin
John O. Rankin III
Thomas A. Ratchford
Fred W. Spurrier Jr.
Marketing Committee for A Christian Witness:
History of the First Presbyterian Church
Joan H. Barringer
Emily S. Bowyer
Tyler S. Bullock
Maribeth L. Jenkins
Christine C. Pierce
Judith A. Planer, chair
Tracy R. Roberts
Session Roster 200$
Gordon Quarles, clerk
Deacon Roster 200$
Ben Beasley, chair
Note: Page numbers of illustrations
are in italics.
Abbenes, Arie, 177
Abernethy, Sarah Adams, 41, 59, 120,
123, 135, 144
Abernethy, William B., Jr., $9, 135,
Adam and Eve, 103
Adams, Bill, 146
Adams, Dr. Charles E., 6, 18, 19
Adams, Dr. Robert H., 5, 20
Adams, Dr. Simeon H., 18
Adams, Emily, 6
Adams, Esther, 53
Adams, Jean Kelly, 123, 133
Adams, Lizzie, no, 147
Adams, M. R., 57, 62-63
Adams, Mrs. C. E., 172
Adams, Mrs. Ed, 25
Adams, Mrs. M. J., 5
Adams, Mrs. M. R., 68
Adams, Mrs. R. L., Sr., 25
Adams, Rebecca, 126-27, 14$
Adams, Robert L., Jr., 18, 25
Adams family, 6, 22
Adams Memorial Church, 44, no
Afterschool Program, 164
Airline Avenue, 9
Akers, Elizabeth, 154
Akers, John M., 41-42, 57, 62, 97,
Akers, Reverend Dr. W. W., 41-42
Akers family, 22
Albright, Jane, 154
Aldrich, Reverend Dr. Doug, 22,
Alexander, I. N., 14
Alexander, Leon C, 57, 62, 63, 115
Alexander family, 6
Allen, Susan, 161
Allf, Anna, plate 7
Allf, Brian, 140
Allf, Jeanne, plate 7
Allison, Turner, plate 6
Amahl and the Night Visitors, 103-4
Anderson, April, 152
Anderson, Emma, 98
Anderson, Reverend and Mrs.
Vernon S., in
Anderson, Reverend Robert Camp-
bell, 13, 14-15, 23, 28
Andrews, Mickie, i$6, 157
Anthony, Katherine, 41
Apostles' Creed banner, 18$
Applewhite, Reverend Herff, 139-40,
Arkin, Alice Taylor, 18
Armstrong, C. B., 21
Armstrong, Elizabeth, 172-73
Armstrong, Ginny, 154
Armstrong family, 6
Armstrong Memorial Presbyterian
Church, 21, 26, 42
associate ministers, 206
Atkins, Garland, 103
Atlanta and Charlotte Airline
Band of Hope, no
baptisms, 33, 70, iyp
Barium Springs Orphanage, 108
Barnett, Helen Ragan, 151
Barnett, Joe L., 62, 151
Barnett family, 22
Barringer, Dr. Robert P., 127
Barringer, Joan, 123
Beacon newsletter, 43
Beal, Giles, Jr., 58
Beal, Helen, ij2
Beal, J. B., 11
Beal, Martha Barnett, 6, 18, $8, 144
Beam, Margaret Rankin, 63, 98, 102
Beasley, Benjamin, 14$
Belgian Congo visit by Dr. Moffett,
73-78, 75, 77
Belk, Georgia, plate 7
Belk, Timothy, 167, 173-74, T 74
Bell, A. Gilbert, 63
Bell, Annie, 5
Bell, Margaret, 5
Bell, R. H., 5
Bell, Sonora, 5
benevolences. See mission activities
Bennett, Cindy, 152
Benson, Harriet, i$2
Bercaw, Emma Binns, 44
Berryman, Skip, 88
Black, Elizabeth, plate 7
Blair, Bonnie, 56, 122
Blair, James, 144
Blake, Dr. Bob, 112, 112-13
Blended Blessings (by daughter of
Rev. Smith), 12
Bone, Maddie, plate 7
Bonsac, Fay Spencer, 98
Book of Church Order, 15, 143
Bowen, Ellen Fain, 155—56
Boyce, Douglas, 41
Boyce, Margaret, 41
Boyce, S. N., 9
Boyce, Stella Holland, 9
Boy Scout activities
building at Marietta Street, 21, 28
seventy-fifth anniversary celebra-
Silver Beaver Award, 204
Troop n, 27-28, 149-51, ISO,
Bradley, B. G., 5, 6, 19
Bradley, Dorcas, 5
Bradley, Eliza, 5
Bradley, Joseph, 9
Bradley, William, 5
Bradley family, 6
Bradshaw, Beverly, 14s, plate 7
Breitenhirt, Thelma, 136
Brendle, Janet, 152
Brenner, Cookie, 123
Bridgeman, John, 144
Bright, Reverend Ralph, 88, 92
Brison, Patsy, 154
Brittain, Steve, 144
Bron, Reverend Jerry, 102
Brown, Marcia, 116
Brown, Reverend and Mrs. George,
Brown, Reverend J. N., 53, 53
Brown, Thomas, 14$
Brown, Virginia, 114-15, 115
Browning, Ethan, plate 6
Broyhill, James, ^5
Bryant, Ann, 152
Bryant, Anna, plate 7
Bryant, Jordan, plate 7
Bryant, Morgan, plate 7
Buckles, Mamie, plate 7
Buckles, Robert, 145
Building and Grounds Committee,
Building and Subscription Commit-
tee of 1895, 18-19
fundraising, 18-21, 57-60, 69
Garrison Boulevard church,
Long Street Church, 9
manse, 11— 12
Marietta Street church, 11, 17-20
Bullock, Bailey, i$6, plate 7
Bullock, Dale, 90
Bullock, Mary Brown, no
Bullock, Tyler Stuart, 89, 90, plate 7
Burch, Melanie, iyi
Burleson, Betsy, 128
Burr, Dr. David H., 104
Burrell, Betty, 171
Burrell, Charlie, iyi
Burwell, Reverend Dr. H. W., 24
Butler, Baird, 123
Butler, Pratt, 162
C. C. Kimbrell Boy Scout Service
Center, 149-51, 150
Cabaniss, Dorothy, 105
Cabaniss, Henry, 105
Caddell, Reverend Stephen, 88
Caldwell, Cordelia Morrow, 95
Caldwell, R. E., 95
Call, James B., 106, 115
Call, Marion, 144
A Call to Faith (Rachel Henderlite),
Campbell, Dr. Ernest, 104
Campbell, Wanda, iyi
Camp Cherokee, 40
Camp Gallant, #, 108
Camp Golden Valley, 152
Camp Kiwanis, 152
Camp Rotary, 151—52
carillon. See Memorial Carillon
Carmichael, Don, 123
Carrie E. and Lena V. Glenn Foun-
Carruthers, Reverend Pete, 88, 93,
99-100, 100, 101, 163
Carson, Dr. Mary Faith, 129
Carter, Becky, 123
Carter, Bynum, 63, 82, 102, 106, 115
Carter, Shelly, 144
Casavant Freres Limited organ,
68-69, 71-72, 168, 175
Cashatt, James E., 63
Cathey, Justus, 102
Cathey, Louise, 113
centennial celebration, 104—5, 116— 17
Center, C. E. "Doc," 105
Chanticleer ensemble, 174
Charlotte Observer, 2, 5
Cherry, Blair, 51
Cherry, Gail, 41
Cherry, Irene, 41, 14J
Cheshire, Reverend Linwood, 44
Chester and Lenoir Narrow Gauge
Railroad, 10, n
Afterschool Program, 164
Boy Scout activities, 21, 27—28,
I49-5I, 150, PLATE 6
Children's Church/A Time for
Young Disciples, 100, 101, 157
Children's Ministry for Infants
through Fifth Graders, 157-58
Children's Missionary Society,
Children's Music Ministries,
choirs, 41, 168, 169, 178, plate 16
Fall festival, 157
family activities, 94
Frank Davis Children's Fund, 102
Girl Scout activities, 60, 151—54,
152, I54, PLATE 7
Mothers' Morning Out, 157
children's activities (continued)
sports teams, i$j, i$8
time capsule, 158
See also Christian education;
Children s Friend newspaper, 4
"The Children's Missionary"
Chimes newsletter, 46
choirs. See music programs
Choquet, Will, 178, plate 6
Christian Action Committee, 127
Christian education, 155—65, i$p, 162,
anonymous donors, 18
Communicants Classes, 88, pj, 1/8
confirmation class, ij$
as congregational priority, 94
Connections Sunday school class,
I59> I ^ 1
Covenant Life Curriculum, 36
directors, 43-44, 52.-53, 119, 155,
Dr. Leith's lectures, 129
under Dr. Stoker, 143-45
under Dr. Stuart, 105
Eunice Warren Bible Class, 114
"Experiencing God" class, 145
Faith and Fiction book group, 128,
Henderlite Bible Class, 36, 125,
142, 159, 160
integration issues, 155
Ladies' Bible Class, 159, 161
Presbyterian Weekday School, 116,
155-57, I$6, I57, PLATE 15
sacraments class, 158
Seekers Bible Class, up, 159
Stuff 'n' Study program, 105, 168
Sunday school, 145, 157-58
Sunday school building, 27
Sunday school superintendent, 155
Thursday breakfast and Bible
study, 162-63, 165
Vacation Bible School, $4, i$6, 157,
women in leadership roles, 108
Christian Observer newspaper, 5
Church World Service, 113
civil rights movement, 76, 81-85,
Clark, Katie, 44-45, 171, 178
clerks of the Session, 205
Cleveland, Grover, 6
Cline, David, 106, 123
Cobb, Harry S., 62-63, io 5
Cockfield, Debbi, plate 7
Cole, Mary Ann, 154
Collier, Jack, plate 6
Collier, James, plate 6
Collis, Emily, plate 7
Collis, Hailey, plate 7
columbarium, 88, 123, plate 12
Committee of Forty-four, 34
Committee of History and Archives,
communion elements, 141
Community Kindergarten, 113
Confederate army service, 18-19
Congolese Presbyterian Church,
Congregational Care Ministry, 144
Connections Sunday school class,
Cooperative Christian Ministry, 116
Copeland, Georgia, #
Corbett, Reverend W B., 7, 9
cornerstone time capsule of 1895, 2
church role in 1895, 5-6
discovery, 1-4, 5, 72, 176
elders and deacons, 6
Ladies Missionary Society, 6
Costner, Frank A., 6, 18, 20
Costner family, 6
Courter, John, 177
Covenant Life Curriculum, 36
Covenant Presbyterian Church, 57,
Covenant Village project, 88, 89,
94-99, 96, 99
Benevolent Fund, 95, 98
ecumenical nature, 95
fundraising, 95, 97-98
Crab Shrimp Casserole recipe, 118
Craig, J. H., 5
Craig, Mary, 5
Craig, Mrs. Thomas L., 28
Craig, Thomas L., 28
Craig, William Lewis, 137—38
Craig family, 6, 22
Crisis Assistance Ministry for
Christians and Jews in Greater
Gastonia, Inc., 44, 45, 116, 126-27,
Crisp, Douglas, 106
Crossnore School, 108
Culp, Ann, 154
Culp, Betsy, 152
Cunningham, Reverend Dr. John
Current, A. J., plate 6
Current, Elizabeth, 122, 146
Current, Jack and Henry, 179
Current, William A., 177
Curry, J. E., 6, 14, 20
Dallas Park chapel, 21
Daniel, Charles F., 69-70
daughter churches, 21
Davidson College, 34, 125
Davis, Frank W, 102
Davis, John, 75-76
Davis, Mark, 137, 142
Dawsey, Dr. Ben, 79
of 1895, 6
of 1898, 20
of 2004, 145
of 2005, 220
Deason, Elaine, iyo, 179—80
DeBevoise, Emalee, 117, 124
DeBevoise, Reverend Dr. Don T, 128
DeBevoise, Reverend Dr. John T.,
call to First Presbyterian, 124—25
community involvement, 125—29,
Faith and Fiction book group, 128,
Gaston County pastoral counsel-
ing center, 128—29
Habitat for Humanity work, 130
hymnal decisions, 180
Joy Campaign, 129-30, 184-85
Kirkin' of the Tartans service,
leadership style, 129-30
partner church in Guatemala, 129
prayer luncheon for prisoners, 126
prayer of dedication, 136
Super Cupboard program, 126-27
views on social issues, 128
youth ministry, 125-26
de la Vega, Dr. Raul, 177
de la Vega, Jo Anne, iyi, 177, 178
de la Vega, Sarah, 178
Dendy, S. Wilkes, 28
Dickson, Andrew, 1/8
Dickson, Brice T, 62, 69, 100
Dickson, Connie, 88
Dickson, David, 160
Dickson, Dr. W W "Dub," 79, 94,
Dickson, Michael, 160
Dickson, Ralph, III, 88
Dickson, Ralph, Sr., 57, 62-63, 68, 81
Dickson, Tern, 154
Dickson family, 6, 22
Dinner Chimes, 117
Director of Children's Music Minis-
directors of Christian education,
43-44, 52-53, 119, 155, 162-63, 207
directors of music, 167-70, 178-79,
Dixon, Jean Groves, 151—52
Dixon, Linda, 105
Dole, Preston, plate 6
Downey, Ellen, 1/0
Dozier, Sally, 41
Drake, Louise, 113
drama programs, 100, 103—4, plate 5
Dunford, Phil, no
Dunn, Wilson, 123
Dunn family, 22
Durham, John O., 45
Durham, Mrs. John O., 45
Durham, Reverend and Mrs. C. C,
Eaker, Carolyn, 154
Easter services, 162, plate 11— 12
Ebner, Gail, 144
Efird, Anne, 117, 133
Efird, Tim, 146
Efird, Tom, 102, 133, 141-42, 142
Efird family, 22
Eichelberger, Reverend Hugh, 123
Eijsbouts Foundry, 177
elders of 1895, 6
Ellis, Kay, 41
Ellis, Lulawill, 42-43
Ellis, Marion, 2
Ellis, Reverend Irving M. "Deac,"
appointment to senior minister, 39
assistant minister position, 40-41
Christian education, 43—44, 119
church controversy, 46
Doctor of Divinity degree, 46
First Church centennial celebra-
Girl Scout activities, 151—52
1948 message, 187-88
mission work, 45
musical skills and activities, 39—44
Pontiac gift, 46
sermon length, 41—42
women in leadership roles, 108
youth ministry, 40-41, 43
Elmore, Paulette, 157
endowments. See memorials and
Etheridge, Jean, 41
Eunice Warren Bible Class, 114
Evans, Gary, plate 4
Eyler, Louise, 154
Faine, John, plate 6
Faith and Fiction book group, 128,
Falls, J. R., 9
Falls, John R., 75?
Falls, Ralph, Jr., 41
Falls, Ralph PL, 55, 57, 62
Falls, Rebecca, 151
Falls, Tommye, 53—54
Falls family, 22
Falls House Hotel, 9
Fanning, Anna, 14$
Farrot, Don, 51
Faust, Kay, 41
Fayssoux, J. H., 5, 11, 17
Fayssoux, Jemima, 5
Ferguson, Ben, 123
Feuer, Debbie, 154
Fielding, Craig, 94
Fink, Dwayne and Sarah, 103
First United Methodist Church, 57
Fisch, Clara, in
Fisher, Dr. Ellis, 112, 140
Fisher, Meg, 117
Fitzmaurice, Kate, iy8
Floyd, Chriscynethia, 174
Fogartie, Reverend Jim, 87
Ford, Ruby Neal, 41
Forrest, Nina, 154
Forrest, Rose, 117, 154
Forrest, Terry, 88
Foster, Gwen, plate 7
founding in 1882, 5
Frank Davis Children's Fund, 102
Franklin, Jimmy, 150
Fulton, Gary, 122
Fulton, Reverend Dr. C. Darby,
future directions, 183-86
G. W. Ragan and Company store,
Gallant, Harry E., 21
Gallant, James, 14
Gallant family, 6
Gallman, Charles, 144
Gamp, Lewis "Brud," 59—60
Gardner, Sarah, 151
Garland, James B. "Jick," 130, 149
Garland, Jo, no
Garland, Kathleen Boyce, 149
Garland, Peter W., 149
Garland family, 22
Garrett, Jay, 132
Garrison, Mrs. W. B., 63
Garrison, W. B., 57, 62, 68, 80
Garrison Boulevard church, yi,
architect Harold Wagoner, 57,
banners, 141, 185
baptismal font, 70
building committees, 57, 62
Casavant Freres Limited organ,
68-69, 71-72, 168, 175
columbarium, 88, 123, plate 12
communion elements, 141
construction, 55-70, 6$, 68
controversy of move, 56
cornerstone of 1895, 1-4, 3, 72,
cornerstone of 1962, 72, 104-5
cost of construction, 69
dedication in 1966, 84
design decisions, 60—64, 67—70
Easter celebrations, plate ii— 12
fundraising, 57-60, 69, 81, 105,
Heritage Fund, 105, 106
Heritage Room, 12, 18, 21, 30, 69,
no, plate 3
land purchase in 1955, 56
Memorial Carillon, 4, 18, 66, 72,
81, 175-78, 176
offices, 72, 142
renovations, 142, 177
sanctuary cross, 67
stained glass window, plate ii
Garrison family, 22
Garrison General Hospital, 34
Gaston County Girl Scouts, 151
Gastonia, North Carolina
annexation of Garrison Boulevard
business district, circa 1920, 28
civil rights movement, 81—85,
Community Kindergarten, 113
Cooperative Christian Ministry,
county government, 10
downtown churches, n, 81
elected officials, n, 17
Gastonia, North Carolina (contin-
1895 "elite," 14
Human Relations Committee,
population, 2, 9-10
strike of 1929, 82
textile industry, 4, 10-11, 17,
Gastonia Academy, 9
"Gastonia Change," 177
Gastonia Gazette, 2, 5, 6, 30—34, 36
Gastonia Women's Betterment
General Assembly of the Presbyterian
Church (PCUS), 105
Gettys, Joe, 88
Gibbons, Anderson, plate 6
Gibbs, Wynn, 88
Giles, Jimmy, 41
Giles, Larry, 41
Giles, Mack, 41
Gillespie, Reverend Dr. George R.,
Gillespie, Reverend Mr. E. E., 24
Gilreath, Reverend Ron, 135
Girl Scout activities, 60, 151—54,
Brownies, 1963, 152
Marguerite Ring Torrence Service
Troop 74, 1953, 154
Glenn, Betty Jean, 41
Glenn, Dr. Enos Franklin, 6, 20, 21
Glenn family, 6
Goff, Addy, plate 7
Gordon, Robert and Lucille, 43, 43,
Gray, Bobby, 41
Gray, George, 19-20
Gray, George, Sr., 45
Gray, Mrs. George, Sr., 45
Gray family, 6
Great Depression era, 34-35
Grissom, Charlie, 142, iyi
Groves Fund, 102
Gunn, Reverend George, 123
Gunter, Dan, 81
Habitat for Humanity, 130, 146, 159
Hall, Alex, 142
Hall, Ginny, 117
Hall, Reverend Dr. Warner, 80
Hammerle, Barbara, 14$
Hamner, Betty, 152
Hamner, Katherine, 154
Harmon, Carroll, 102, 135
Harper, R. T., 6, 20
Harris, Carlisle, plate 7
Harris, Glen, 88
Harris, Lou Anne, 154, plate 7
Hauer, Thomas, plate 6
Heaven's Gate Cult, 139-40
Hebblethwaite, John, 104, 168, 177
Henderlite, Dr. Rachel, 36
Henderlite, Nelle, 25, 30
Henderlite, Reverend Dr. James
Henry, 15, 23-37, 2 4
annual reports of 1919, 26—27
baptisms with water from the
Jordan River, 33
Boy Scout Troop 11, 27-28
civic activities, 25, 34
Doctor of Divinity degree, 34
Great Depression era, 34—35
membership growth, 25—26
retirement and death, 36
sabbatical trip, 29—34
salary, 26-27, 29, 35
twenty-fifth anniversary celebra-
Union Theological Seminary
scholarship endowment, 36
Vacation Bible School, 158-59
women in leadership roles, 108
Henderlite, Reverend Dr. Langdon,
Henderlite Bible Class, 36, 125, 142,
Hendrix, Shirley, 154
Henry, George, Jr., 80-81, 131
Henry, James, 102, 104
Henry, Mrs. George, Jr., 131
Henry family, 22
Heritage Fund, 105, 106, 130
Heritage Room, 18, plate 3
Dr. Henderlite's reports from
Marietta Street items, 12, 21
Memorials Book, 69
Miss Lizzie Adams plaque, 110,
Hickson, Gloria, 132
Hill, Roger, iji
Hill, Taylor, i 7 8
Hileman, Jean, 128
historical timeline, 193-203
histories of First Presbyterian Church
by Charles F. Daniel in 1961,
by Hugh Query in 1948, 187-88
by Rev. Robert Smith in 1895, 4-5
Hobson, Hal, 169
Hobson, Reverend J. Kemp, 73-74
Hodges, Garrison, plate 7
Hodges, Parker, plate 7
Holland, J. B., 16
Holland, James Quinn, 5, 6, 9, ip,
Holland, Julia, 5
Holland, Mrs. J. Q., 9
Holland, Stella, 9, 172
Holland family, 6
Holman, Amy, 158
honorary life memberships of
women's organizations, 211-14
Hooker, Will, 145
Hooks, Judy, 154
Hopital Lumiere, 112— 13
Hovis, Ashley, ij8
Hovis, Brittany, 178
Howe, Jayne, iyi
Howe, Mary John, 151
Howe, Pressley, plate 7
Howe, Wayne, 102
Howren, Susan and John, 103
Hubbard, Helen, 44
Hudgins, Jeff, iyi
Hudson, Mrs. J. R., yj
Huffman, Debbie and Hughes, 168
Hunter, Barbara, 133
Hunter, Nancy, 113
Hunter, J. A., 6, 20
Hunter family, 6
Hurricane Hugo, 121
IHS banner, 141
Intentional Christian Experience
(ICE), 89, 100, 163
Interfaith Hospitality Network, 145,
Jackson, Janet, 169, 170
Jackson, John Frank, 21, 24, 44
Jackson, Judy, 41
Jackson, "Miss Bess" P., 43, 43, 55
Jackson family, 6
Jarman, Bill, i$o
Jarman, Dick, i$o
Jarman, Kerry, 102
Jesus of Nazareth, 104
Johnson, Noel, 130, 131, 140, 142,
Johnston family, 6
Johnston, R. L., 5, 11
Johnston, Reverend R. Manfred, IV,
Jones, Arthur C, 24
Jones, Barbara, 117
Jones, Brandon, plate 6
Jones, Reverend Dr. James A., 84
Jones, James H., 37
Jones, Natalie, plate 7
Jones, Reverend Frank, 37
Jones, Virginia Henderlite, 37
Jones family, 22
Joy in the Morning service, 142—43,
143 > l8 4
Julian, Mrs. W. A., 45
Julian, W. A., 45
Keir, Louise Love, 19, 60
Keith, Mary Katherine, 147
Keith, William H., 105, 106, 122, 130,
Keith family, 22
Kelly, Annabelle, 117, 144, i$2
Kelly, Dr. Bill, 112, 167
Kelly, Susan, /J2
Kemp, Helen Hubbard, 169
Kendrick, Ralph, Jr., 56
Kendrick, Ralph, Sr., 56
Kendrick Drive. See Garrison Boule-
Kennedy, James Holland, 14, 21, 45
Kennedy, John R, assassination, 83
Kennedy, Mrs. James H., 45
Kennedy, Reverend J. J., 7, 7
Kennedy family, 6
Kennington, Grady, 144, 159, 161,
Kersher, Paul, 105
Ketchum, Inc., 57—58
"Keyboards and Carols," 170
Keyzer, Helene, in
Kimball pipe organ, 28
Kimbirl, Reverend John, 88
Kimbrell, C. C., 149-51
Kimbrell, Duke, 80, 97, 106, 115, 123,
Kimbrell family, 22
Kimray, Jonathan, ij8
Kincaid, Mrs. Paul, 63
Kincaid, Paul P., 63
King, Betsy, 159
King, David, 144
King, Lila, 116
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 81, 91
King, Scotty, 123
Kings Mountain Presbyterial, 108
Kirkham, Thomas, 14$
Kirkin' of the Tartans service,
130-32, 131— 32, plate 10
Kiser, Betty, p6
Kluttz, Jo Ann, 41
Knight, Matthew, plate 6
Knoxville World's Fair, 103
Kreutzer, Hilda, 44, 4$
Kunkle, Carl, 145
Lackey, Dr. Don, 79
Lacy, Dr. Ben, 88
Lacy, Reverend Dr. J. H., 24
Ladies' Aid Society, 107, 209
Ladies' Bible Class, 159, 161
Ladies' Home and Foreign Mission
Society, 107, 109-10, 209
Ladies' Missionary Society, 6, 107,
LaFar, D. R., Jr., 55, 57, 62, 64, 68
LaFar, D. S., 62, 68
LaFar, Dan, Jr., 87, 122, 123-24, 133,
LaFar, David, 95
LaFar, Dottie, iyi
LaFar, Marshall, 150
LaFar family, 22
Lambert, Reverend Dr. Clem, 92
Landale, Susan, 174
Lanz, Christine, iy8
Lattimore, Mrs. Louie M., 45, 55
Lawson, Margaret, 154
Lawson, W. D., Ill, 123
Covenant Village, 94, 95, p6, 97
Garrison Boulevard church, 57,
60-63, 68, 69
Memorial carillon, 177
lay leadership, 17-22
anonymous donors, 18
building of the Marietta Street
deacons of 1895, 6
deacons of 1898, 20
during Dr. Stuart's ministry, 105
elders of 1895, 6
establishment of local mission
impression on Dr. Stuart, 90
installation of officers, 181
Leadership Training School, 109
pastor's aides, 53—54
Sunday school superintendent, 155
women, 114-15, 117, 119-20
See also Session; women's activities
Layton, Mary, 145
Leadership Training School, 109
Leeper, Sylvia, 123, 133
Leissner, Janet, iji
Leith, Dr. John, 123, 125, 129
Lemmon, John, 145
Leviathan ship, 30, 34
Leviner, R. L., 68
Lewis, Leslie, 45, iyi
Lewis, William H., 14
Liberty Presbyterian Church, 51
life memberships of women's organi-
zations, 211— 14
Lineberger, Allison Gordon, 130
Lineberger, Eli N., 11, 18
Lineberger, Laura and Robbie, 103
Linwood Presbyterian Church, 82,
Loftin, Bill, 44
Loftin, Charles, III, 41
Loftin, Charles I., 62, 68
Loftin, Martha Enck, 44
Loftin family, 22
Long, Dr. Tom, 129
Long, Linda, 154
Long Brothers, 5
Long Street Church, 9
Loray Mill, 19-20
Love, Betty, no
Love, Bill, 88
Love, John Franklin, 6, 11, 18, 19-20,
Love, Mrs. J. F., 6
Love, R. C. G., 6, 18, 19
Love, Susan Rhyne, 107
Love, Susie, 20
Love, William A., 20
Love family, 6
Lybrand, G. W, n
Lytle, Mrs. Fred S., 106, 151-52
Mackie, H. S., 43, 119
Mackie, Kitty, 3, 43, 105, 106, 117-20
Mackie, Spurgeon and Margaret, 120
Mackie family, 22
Mackorell, David, 41
Mackorell, T. M., 79
Madrigal Singers, 168
Majors, Mrs. L. C, 52
Mando, Helen, 41
Mann, Harry, 63
manse, 10, n— 12, 28
Marguerite Ring Torrence Service
Center, 152, 153
Marietta Street church, 8, 35
brick sales, 12
bronze bell, 18, 81
construction, n, 17-20
cornerstone of 1895, 1—6, 3, 72, iy6
heating system, 5
the Hut, 27, 40
Italian carved capitals, 21
Marietta Street church (continued)
Junior Choir, 1946, 41
Kimball pipe organ, 175
manse, 10, 11— 12, 28
memorial stained-glass windows,
men, 1916, 26
men, 1922, 29
Moeller handpump organ, 174
move to Garrison Boulevard, 56,
music program, 44
organ and piano purchases, 28
property size limitations, 55
renovations and modernization,
staff, 43, 43-44^ 5^-53
Sunday school building, 27
weddings, 42, $8, 59
women, 1916, 2j
marketing committee for A Christian
Martin, C. H., 5
Martin, Jim, 127
Marvin, Helen Rhyne, 115, 126
Mason, John C, III, 18
Mason, Mrs. John C, Jr., 62
Mason, Susie, 113
Massey, Charles, 94, 160
Matheny, Lee Bonsac, 98
Matthews, Elizabeth (daughter), 9,
Matthews, Elizabeth Robinson
(mother), 9, jj, 57, 62-63
Matthews, Eugene, 9
Matthews, Frank, 3, 9, 106, 115, 177
Matthews, Gene, 102, 146
Matthews, Houston, 9
Matthews, J. H., 9
Matthews, Mary Houston, 178
Matthews family, 22
Mau, Marcia, 168-69
Maxon, Becky and Dave, 103
Mayes, Marion, 116
Mayes, Reverend Frank, 46-47, 85,
88, 123, 123
"May the Grace of God Go with
McAlhaney, Jim, 125
McAlpine, Reverend and Mrs. James
A., 74, in
McArthur, S. E., 11
McChesney, Charles, 44
McCormick, Reverend L. R., 7, 7
McCully, Andrew, plate 6
McCurry, Dan, 133
McCurry, Kendall, 178
McCurry, Patricia, 14$
McFarland, Mary, 169-70, 170, 171,
McGlohon, Loonis, 178
McGregor, Gill, 126
Mcllwaine, Reverend W. E., 7, 7
McKenzie, Dorothy, 157, plate 15
McKenzie, Jim, 160
McLean, Becky, 113
McLean, Leslie, 150
McLean, Rebecca Stowe, 98
McLean, Suzanne, 171
McLean family, 6, 22
McLemore, Fannie, 113
McSpadden, Connor, plate 6
McSpadden, Harrison, plate 6
Meakin, Jack, plate 6
Meals on Wheels, 116
Mecklenburg Presytery, 4, 9, 34
Meek, Arlena, 171
church discipline, 15—16
congregation goal-setting activi-
ties, 92-94, 99, 140-43
deteriorating growth, 183
under Dr. DeBevoise, 129
under Dr. Henderlite, 25-26,
26-27 29, 54
family legacies, 17
at 1882 formation, 5
member assimilation classes, 92
military service, 18—19, 46
Presbyterian ministry, 204
role in church management, 125
Silver Beaver Award recipients,
See also lay leadership; Women of
Memorial Carillon, 4, 18, 66, 72, 81,
memorials and endowments
Crisis Assistance Ministry, 44, 4$,
Frank Davis Children's Fund, 102
Groves Fund, 102
Heritage Fund, 105, 106, 130
Presbyterian Endowment Trust,
88, 100-103, 135, 146
R.E. Caldwell Benevolent Fund,
stained-glass windows, 20—21
Susie and George W. Ragan Spiri-
tual Enrichment Fund, 129
Torrence Fund, 102
Men's Bible Class, 21, 36
Men's Missionary Society, 107
Mercer, Lucia Groves, 151
Miller, Dr. George, in, 112
Miller, Judy, in, 112, 116
Minges, Jamie, i$2
ministers, 7, 9-16
assistant ministers, 26
associate ministers, 206
call practices, 24—25
Director of Christian Education
interims, 123, 133
new cars, 23, 80-81
salaries, 26-27, 29, 35, 52
supply ministers, 7—9
See also names of individual
mission activities, ///
Brazil jeep project, 45
Children's Missionary Society,
Church World Service, 113
Community Kindergarten, 113
cornerstone envelope, 2
Dr. DeBevoise's Joy Campaign,
Dr. Moffett's trip to Belgian
Congo, 73-78, 75, 77
foreign projects, 74, 107, 110-13
Habitat for Humanity, 130, 146,
Intentional Christian Experience,
89, 100, 163
Interfaith Hospitality Network,
145, 159, 161
Ladies' Home and Foreign Mis-
sion Society, 107, 109
Ladies' Missionary Society, 6, 107
local, 27, 44, 113, 126-27, 145-46,
Men's Missionary Society, 107, 109
reputation of First Presbyterian,
under Reverend Ellis, 45
Serving Our Community with
Kindness in Springwood pro-
gram, 127, 127
Super Cupboard program, 126-27
Third Street Presbyterian Church,
9, 102, 145, plate 14
Women of the Church activities,
youth trips, 163
The Missionary booklet, 4
Mitchell, Reverend Dr. Donald, 72,
Moffett, Margaret, 51, 68
Moffett, Reverend Dr. H. D., 49
Moffett, Reverend Dr. Harry M., Jr.
49-55^ 50, 55' 61-85
background, 49, 51—52
Board of World Missions mem-
building of Garrison Boulevard
church, 55, 61-70, 68
call to First Presbyterian, 51—52
centennial celebration, 104
civic activity, 81—85
Garrison Boulevard church dedi-
Kennedy, John F., assassination
leisure activities, 79—80
Marietta Street church departure,
mission trip to Belgian Congo,
73-78, 75, 77, PLATE 13
move to Garrison Boulevard,
new cars, 80-81
prayer services, 78-79
views on social issues, 76, 81—85
Moffett, Reverend Polk, 49
Montreat, 40, 108, 172, 175
Montreat College, 34
Moore, Sandra, 154
More, Elisabeth Love, 135
Morris, Marti, plate 7
Morris, Mrs. Woody, 68
Morrow, Ben, 144, 171
Morrow, Catherine, 41
Morrow, Mrs. John, 5
Morrow, Pat, 1—2, 102, 146, plate 4
Moss, Charles, 44
Moss, Fred, 44
Moss, Mrs. Charles, 44
Moss, Mrs. Fred, 44
Mothers' Morning Out, 157
Mountain View Chapel, 44
Murphy, Mrs., 55
Music, Worship, and the Arts
music programs, 44—45, 167-81
carillon recitals, 177-78
Cassavant Freres Limited organ,
68-69, I 1 -! 7 -' z 68, 175
children's choirs, 41, 168, 169, 178,
choir loft, 168
choir tours, 169
Christmas programs, 170—72, 172
commissioned works, 169, 177
dedicatory organ recital at Garri-
son Boulevard church, 71-72
directors, 167-70, 178-79, 208
under Dr. Stuart, 100
First Church centennial celebra-
handbell choirs, 44—45, 169—70,
hymnal decisions, 179—80
Junior Choir, 41
Kimball pipe organ, 175
Madrigal Singers, 168
Meet the Composer weekend, 169
Memorial Carillon, 4, 18, 66, 72,
81, 175-78, 176
Moeller handpump organ, 174
Music, Worship, and the Arts
Music and Worship Conference,
organ concerts, 173-74
organ recordings, 177
under Reverend Ellis, 39-44
"Ring and Sing" program, 169-70
Sanctuary Choir, 168-72, 171, 178
Schlicker chapel organ, 175
singings at the Gordon home, 43,
special musical offerings, 170—72,
"Spring Ring" program, 170
Steinway grand piano, 178
youth choirs, 169, 170-72
Myers, Teresa, 104
Nason, Charles, plate 6
National Presbyterian Church,
nativity reenactment of 1996, 172
Neal, Ann, 103
Nelli, Emma, plate 7
Nelson, Linda, 14$
Newcombe, Hannah, plate 7
Newcombe, Jennifer, plate 7
newsletters, 2, 43, 46
Nicene Creed banner, 18$
Nielsen, Gunnar, 103-4
Nielsen, Lisbet, 117, 119
Nielson, Stephen, 170
A Nite of Comedy, 104
Noel, John, 174
North Carolina Presbyterian news-
Nova Vocce ensemble, 174
Oglesby, Dr. William, Jr., 104, 129
Olney Presbyterian Church, 4, 5, 9,
O'Neal, A. B., 101-2
One Hundred Years of Cooking, 104,
O'Neill, Hannah, plate 7
origins of First Presbyterian Church,
Ormand, Mrs. James, 63, 117, 155
"Our Fatherless Ones" pamphlet, 4
outreach activities. See mission
Overmyer, Reverend Joe, 158—59
Owen, Cathy, 88
Owen, Clara, 1/8
Owens, Janie Kendrick, 56
Owens, John Cleveland, Jr., 56
Owens, Steve, 56, 151, plate 6
Owensby, Susan, 154
Owens family, 56
Page, Anna Laura, 169
Page, Ibby, 152, 158
Page, J. E., ip
Page family, 6
Parks, Katherine, 154
Parsons, Chris, 140
Parsons, Laura, 157—58, 170
Paschall, Anna, plate 7
Patrick, Dr. W. M., 63
Patrick, Mary Ann, 3, no, 152
Patrick, Neale, 43, 43
Patrick, Virginia, i$2
Patrick family, 22
Patterson, Annie L. P., 109
Patterson, Mrs. E. L., yy
Payne, Erica, plate 7
Payne, Krista, plate 7
Peabody, Kitty, 128
Pearl Wilson Fund for Missions, 102
Peck-Smead Company, 5
Peden, Bennie, 113
Peden, John, 79, 132
Peek, Dr. Richard, 71-72, 175
Pegram, David, 2, 133, 179
Pegram, Mrs. T. C, 6
Pegram, T. C, 6, 11, 20
Pegram family, 6
Perryman, Reverend Patrick, 129, 139,
140, 146, 178, 179
Pershing, John J., 34
Petit, Kim, 178
Piedmont Chapel, 44, no
Piedmont Council Scout Head-
quarters, 149—51, I$0
Piephoff, Reverend Zack, 123
Pierce, Scott, 14$
Pinnix, R. H., 64, 68
Pioneer Council Girl Scouts, 151
Planer, Geof, 142
Planer, Judith, 14$, ij$
pledge cards, 2
Poag, Beverly, iyo
Poag, Jim, ijo
Pote, Allan, 169
Pratt, Reverend Clyde, 163
by Committee of History and
by Dr. David C. Stoker, 147,
by Dr. Donald Mitchell, 72
by Dr. Douglas Aldrich, 22, 106
by Dr. James G. Stuart, 16, 154
by Dr. John DeBevoise, 136
by Dr. Wilson P. Rhoton, Jr., 37
by Hugh A. Query, 187-88
bv Reverend Frank Mayes, 46—47,
by Reverend John C. Pruitt,
Presbvterian Church Foreign Mis-
Presbyterian Church USA Board of
World Missions, 73-74
Presbyterian Church USA
Presbyterian Endowment Trust
(PET), 88, 100-103, J 35> J 4^
Presbyterian Junior College, 34
Presbyterian School of Christian
Presbyterian Trotters, 103, 133, 134,
Presbyterian Weekday School, 102,
155-573 J 56> z 57> plate 15
Presbyterian Women, 107
blood drives, no
congregational care, 108-9
Honorary Life Memberships,
honors and memorials, 109
presidents, 210— 11
See also women's activities
Presbytery participants, 120
presidents of women's organizations,
Pritchett, Amelia, 178
Professional Counseling Services,
The Prophet and the Carpenter, 103
Pruitt, Reverend John, ijp, 146,
Puett, Corinne, 55
Quarles, Bill, 160
Quarles, Gordon, 144
Quarles, William, Ij8
Queens College, 34
Query, Hugh A., 30, 49, 187-88
Query, Mrs. Hugh, 25, 54, 55, 63
race relations and civil rights, 76,
81-85, 9 l ~9?-> 155
Ragan, Caldwell, 21, 62
Ragan, George W, 6, 14, 18—21, 20,
Ragan, George W, Jr., 21
Ragan, Lydia, 96
Ragan, Mrs. Amanda Zoe, 20
Ragan, Robert, 107-8
Ragan, Susie, 129
Ragan family, 6
Ramseur, Mrs. Hubert, 108-9
Rankin, Jane, 154
Rankin, John R., 36
Rankin, Lucille, 158-59
Rankin family, 22
Ratchford, David, 56, 98
Ratchford, Fred A., 45, 62
Ratchford, Joseph Fisher, 56
Ratchford, Reverend Dr. Robert W.,
Ratchford, William C, 56, 105, 106
Ratchford family, 6
RatclifFe, Jere B., 149
Rauch, Marshall, 59-60
Ray family, 22
Reagan, Ronald, 139
Reese, Julia Kay, plate 7
Reese, Katie, plate 7
Reid, Lela Shuford, 107
Reid, Ruth, 88
religious education. See Christian
Renfro, Anna, iyo
retirement village. See Covenant
Rhinehart, Tori, plate 7
Rhodes, Emily, plate 7
Rhoton, Reverend Dr. Wilson R,
Rhyne, Mrs. Walter G., #, 63
Rhyne family, 6
Richards, Reverend Dr. C. M., 24
Richardson, Dell, 154
Rios, James, plate 6
Roach, Sam, plate 6
Roberts, Evan, ij8
Roberts, Rebecca, 14$
Roberts, Ruby Lee, 123
Robertson, Peggy, 14$
Robinson, Florence, 41
Robinson, J. Lee, 6, 14, 20, 21
Robinson, Leigh Ann, i$2
Robinson, Mrs. Ralph, Sr., 63, 102
Robinson, Mrs. S. A., 55
Robinson, Nancy Dean McLean, 21
Robinson, Ralph, Jr., 106, 115, 122, 140
Robinson, Ralph S., Sr., 55—56, 57,
Robinson, Reverend C. W, 7, 13,
Robinson, Sally, 102, 146
Robinson, Sue Gallant, 108
Rogg, Lionel, 174
Rollins, Lee, plate 6
Romer, Mildred, 162
Rotary Club, 35-36
Rowley, Ben, plate 6
Rowley, John, plate 6
Royster, Annabelle and David, 133
Rusk, Dean, 51
Rutherford, Lori, plate 7
sabbaticals, 29-34, 105—6, 129
Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club,
Sampson, Reverend T. R., 107
Sanctuary Choir. See music
Schneider, Leon, 60
Schroeder, Brian, 144, iji
"Scottish Fantasy," 177
scouting. See Boy Scout activities;
Girl Scout activities
/ Chronicles 13:8, 167
Galatians 6:6, p, 10, 155
Hebrew 12:1, xiii
Isaiah 40:28-31, 183
Isaiah 64:8, 87
Jeremiah 6:16, v
John 1:1—4, l
Matthew 16:18, 49
Matthew iy.20, 49
Matthew 25:34— 36, 121
Proverbs 8:14, 107
Psalm 1:1, 3, 23
Psalm 23:1, 121
Psalm 84:1—2, 39
Psalm 121:1, 2, 8, 73
Psalm I2j:i, 17
/ Timothy 4:12, 149
Seekers Bible Class, up, 159
Serving Our Community with Kind-
ness in Springwood program, 127,
of 1898, ip
of 1902, 21
of 2004, 144
of 2005, 220
Book of Church Order require-
ments, 15, 143
disciplining of congregants, 15—16
under Dr. DeBevoise, 130
under Dr. Stuart, 89
hymnal decisions, 179-80
integration resolution of 1963, 82
Joy in the Morning service, 142—43
oversight of Christian education,
sabbatical gifts, 105—6, 129
views on social issues, 128
Vision 2000, 140
women participants, 114— 15, 117
Setzer, Wilson, 79
Setziel, LeRoy, 67
Shannon, J. R., 6, 11, ip
Shannon family, 6
Shaw, Dr. John and Mrs. Sharon, 111,
Sherrill, Bill, iyo
Sherron, John, 145
Shields, Reverend Malcolm McG.,
13, H> 19
Shive, L. Jerry, 62
Shive, Verne, 44
Shovelin, Julia, 152
Shriver, Reverend Donald W., Jr.,
Siler, John, 173, ij$
Silvers, Beth, 159
Sims, Jamie, plate 6
Sims, Michael, plate 6
Smith, B. E., jp
Smith, Bobi, 752
Smith, Brandon, plate 6
Smith, Ella Reid, 12
Smith, Elvira, 5
Smith, Reverend Robert Perry, 1—2,
7, 11-13, 13
church history, 4-5
cornerstone time capsule, 5-6
Marietta Street building, 8, 11
Smith family, 6
Smyre, Alfred Monroe, 5, 11, 16, ip,
21, 72, 92
Smyre, Brownie, 152
Smyre, F. L. "Rick," III, 92-94, 97
Smyre, Frederick Lewis, Sr., 72
Smyre, Fred L., Jr., 57, 62, 84
Smyre, Mrs. Alfred Monroe, 6, 72,
Smyre, Mrs. Frederick L., Sr., 62,
Smyre, Sarah A., 5
Smyre family, 6
The Sound of Music, 103, plate 5
Southern Presbyterian Church, 34
South Fork River, 10-11
Southminster Presbyterian Church,
Sparrow, Clara Baity, 98
Sparrow, W. R., 57, 63
Spencer, Dr. Arthur, III, 98
Spencer, Freda Goforth, 98
Spencer, Gray, 98
Spencer, Lee, plate 6
Spencer, Marguerite, 151
Spencer family, 6
Spindles and Spires (Shriver), 82-83
Stafford, Ring T., 146, 152
Stell, Reverend Lawrence, 123
Stephen Ministry of First Presbyte-
rian Church, 135
Stewart, Trip, 3, 98-99, 171, 178
Stewart family, 22
Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, 81
Stoker, Reverend Dr. David, 1-2, 132,
137-47- 138, 139, 144, 146
background, 137-39, x 49
call to First Presbyterian, 137,
Christian education, 143—45
Joy in the Morning service,
142-43, 143, 184
peacemaking trip to Jordan, 146
prayers, 147, 164—65
Vision 2000, 140-43
youth ministry, 178
Stone Soup (Brown), 116
Stone Soup recipe, 116— 17
Stover, Doug, 146
Stover, Rob, 178
Stover, Susan, 144
Stowe, Betty Sloan, 158-59
Stowe, Beverly, 102
Stowe, Reverend Dr. Joe, 102, 125-26,
Stuart, James Gordon "Jeb," Jr., 8p,
Stuart, Katherine Elizabeth, 89, 90
Stuart, Leslie Anne, 8p, 90
Stuart, Mary Beth, 89, 90
Stuart, Reverend Dr. James Gordon,
call to First Presbyterian, 87
chapel services, 91
Children's Church/A Time for
Young Disciples, 100, 101
congregation goal-setting activi-
ties, 92-94, 99, 105
Covenant Village project, 88, 89,
Doctor of Ministry thesis, 88
drama program, 100, 103-4,
First Church centennial celebra-
guest at Kirkin' service, 132
Intentional Christian Experience
program, 89, 100
leadership style, 88-89
member assimilation classes, 92
music program, 100
nativity scenes, 104
pastoral counseling training,
prayers, 16, 154
Presbyterian Endowment Trust,
Professional Counseling Services
retirement, 87, 105—6
women's roles in the church lead-
ership, 88, 115
youth ministry, 88, 99-100
Stuff 'n' Study program, 105, 168
Styers, Helen, 178
Sudderth, Pat, 103
Sudduth, Barbara, i$2
Sudduth, Roy, 44
Summer, Tom, 2, 3, 4, 72
Summerell, J. N., 114
Summerell, Margaret Vaughn, 54, 57,
62-63, 114, us
Summerell family, 22
Sumner, Beverly, 14$
Sumner, Carolyn Warren, 151
Sumner, Elizabeth, 144, 146
Sumner, Ernest, 178, plate 6
Sumner, Harold, 97
Sumner, Mary, 145
Sumner, Robert E. Ill, 106
Super Cupboard program, 126-27
Susie and George W. Ragan Spiritual
Enrichment Fund, 129
Swilling, Charlene, iyi, 178
Sytz, Parker, plate 6
Talley, Nancy, 88
Taylor, Cas, plate 4
Taylor, Eubank, 52-53, 68
Taylor, James, Jr., 18, i$o
Taylor, Lee, 142-43, 144
Taylor, Martha, 102
Taylor, Reverend Reichardt, 45
Taylor family, 22
"Teach Me Lord," 178
Temple Emmanuel, 59—60
Templeton, Elmer, 175
Templeton, John, 88
Templeton, Mary Sexton Smyre, 175
Third Street Presbyterian Church, 9,
102, 145, plate 14
Thomas, Alex, 178
Thomas, Andre, 169
Thomas, Sandy, 154
Thompson, Landon, 87
Thompson, Marshall, 57—58
Thompson, Mary, 41
Thompson, Nancy, 41
Thompson family, 6
Thrower, Elizabeth, 145
Timberlake family, 22
time capsule. See cornerstone time
capsule of 1895
A Time for Young Disciples, 100, 101
Torrence, Charlton K., Jr., 3, 6, 7
Torrence, Charlton K., Sr., 45, 62,
Torrence, Frost, 6, 45
Torrence, Jean Marie, 7, 114-15, 11$,
Torrence, Marguerite Ring, 151, 152
Torrence, Mary Elizabeth, 18
Torrence, Mrs. Charlton K., Sr., 45
Torrence, Mrs. Frost, 6, 45
Torrence family, 22
Torrence Fund, 102
Tremble, Reverend and Mrs. U. T.,
Tucker, Phyllis, 113
Tull, Susan, 154
Turner, Patsy Bratton, 100
unchurching of members, 15
Union Presbyterian Church, 5, 9, 184
Union Theological Seminary in New
Union Theological Seminary in
Richmond, 34, 36, 51, 83-84
United Presbyterian Church
Upchurch, Margaret Dunn, 123, 152,
Upchurch, Peggy, i$2
Vacation Bible School, $4, i$6, 157,
Vance, BAnn, 152, iyi
Vaughn, Anna, ij8
Vaughn, Joseph, plate 6
Vaughn, Michelle, plate 7
Vaughn, Turner, plate 6
Vienna Choir Boys, 174
Vision 2000, 140—43
Voorhees, Barbara, 1—2
Waggoner, Lon, 144
Wagoner, Harold, 57, 61-64, 67-71,
Walker, Karen, 154
Walker, Mary Olive, 43-44, 119, 151
Walton, Jimmy, 41
Walton, Peggy, 178
Ward, Theresa, 41
Warren, Edith, 167-68
Warren, Myrtle, 158-59
Warren family, 6
war veterans, 18-19, 215-19
Waters, Fred, 63
Watson, Ann, 154
Watson, Craig, 62, 80, 177
Watson, Richard, 177
Watson, Tom, i$o, 171
Watson family, 22
Watts, Coralie, plate 7
Watts, Kenna, plate 7
We All Are Barabas (Rachel Hender-
weddings, 42, $8, $9
Weese, Carolyn, 140—42
Weiss, Jeff, 169
Wentz, Sarah, 128
West Avenue Presbyterian Church, 21
Westminster Choir College, 44
Westminster Confession banner, 18$
Westminster League, no
Weston, Brock, 1/8
Wetzell, Billy, 150
Wetzell, Blanche and Charles, 103
Wetzell, Mary, 154
Wetzell, Nan, 63, 155-57
Wetzell, W L., Jr., 51-52
Wetzell family, 22
Whisnant, Howard, 130
White, Burkie, jjj
White family, 6
Whitener, Lee, 154
Wilds, Samuel, 164
Wilkerson, Janice, 178-79
Wilkie, Bruce, 88
Wilkins, Mrs. John, 44
Willcox, Iris, 14J
Williams, Ali, 178
Williams, Betty Ruth, 117
Williams, Bill, 133
Williams, Debbie, 154
Williams, Holly, 88, 152
Williams, Marjorie, 154
Williams, Mary Lanier, plate 7
Williams, Phil, 160
Williams, Richard, 88
Williamson, A. C, 11
Williamson, Robert A., 20-21
Williamson family, 6
Williford, Wade, 44
Willing Workers, no
Wilson, Charles, 11
Wilson, Dr. Dan, 132, 160
Wilson, Ed, 14
Wilson, Larry, 14$
Wilson, Mrs. T. L., 63
Wilson, Pearl, 135
Wilson, Penny, 126
Wilson, Ross, 178
Wilson, T. W, 6, 20
Wilson family, 6
Winget, A. K., 21
Winget, Knox, III, 21
Winget, Sarah, plate 7
Winget, Shelton, plate 7
Winget family, 22
Wireman, Reverend Dr. Billy, 132
Wise, Griffin, 178
Wise, Whitner, plate 7
Withers, Brendan, 178
Women of the Church, 107
Community Kindergarten, 113
congregational care, 108-9
Cooperative Christian Ministry,
Crab Shrimp Casserole, 118
Dinner Chimes, 117
food and meals programs, 115— 16,
Honorary Life Memberships,
honors and memorials, 108-9
hospitality activities, 118
mission work, no— 13, 115— 16, 116
One Hundred Years of Cooking,
Pastor's Aides, 53-54, 109
Women of the Church (continued)
prayer groups, 74-75
women's activities, 107—20
in 1895, 6
blood drives, no
Eunice Warren Bible Class, 114
honorary life memberships of
organizations, 211— 14
Ladies' Aid Society, 107
Ladies' Bible Class, 159, 161
Ladies' Home and Foreign Mis-
sion Society, 107, 109—10
Ladies' Missionary Society, 6, 107
leadership, 88, 107, 114-15, 117,
Leadership Training School, 109
presidents of organizations, 209-11
Seekers Bible Class, up, 159
sewing room, 113, 7/5
See also Presbyterian Women;
Women of the Church
Women's Auxiliary of the Presbyte-
rian Church in the United States,
Wood, Alice, 41
Woods, Vanna, 60
Woody, Dr. Gene, 79
Workman, Trigger, jp
Worlds Fair of 1982, 103
Wray, Mrs. Joe, 25
Wren, Bob, 102
Wren, William, i 7 8
Wyche, Bill, 150
Wynkoop, Daniel, 179
Yarbrough, David, yp
Yarbrough, Doris Ann, 41
Yarbrough, Norma Jean, 41
Young, Ovid, 170
youth ministry, 162-63, plate 9
Communicants Class of 1968, 88
Communicants Class of 1975, p3
Communicants Class of 2004, 1/8
confirmation class, 175
directors, 162—63, 2 °7
Easter sunrise services, 162
Intentional Christian Experience,
Middle School Singers and Ring-
mission activities, 163
under Reverend DeBevoise,
under Reverend Ellis, 40-41, 43
under Reverend Stuart, 88, 92,
Senior High Beach Bash, plate 2
Senior High Singers and Ringers,
singings at the Gordon home, 43,
Thursday breakfast and Bible
study, 162-63, 163
Young People's Council, 1954, 43
See also children's activities
Zeigler, Charles E., 177
Zeigler, Dottie, 152
Zeigler, Nancy, 88
Zeigler family, 22
UNIVERSITY OF N.C. AT CHAPEL HILL
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